If you've ever slammed a Mountain Dew or similar citrus-flavored soda during a marathon gaming session, you may want to step back and re-evaluate what you're putting into your body. A new feature published at iwatchnews.org reveals the history and potential health risks of brominated vegetable oil, otherwise known as BVO, a banned-in-Europe emulsifier that is also used in flame retardants.
In addition to Mountain Dew, the article reports that Squirt, Fanta Orange, Sunkist Pineapple, Gatorade Thirst Quencher Orange, Powerade Strawberry Lemonade or Fresca Original Citrus all contain BVO. It goes on to explain BVO:
Brominated vegetable oil, which is derived from soybean or corn, contains bromine atoms, which weigh down the citrus flavoring so it mixes with sugar water, or in the case of flame retardants, slows down chemical reactions that cause a fire.
Brominated flame retardants lately are under intense scrutiny because research has shown that they are building up in people's bodies, including breast milk, around the world. Designed to slow the spread of flames, they are added to polystyrene foam cushions used in upholstered furniture and children's products, as well as plastics used in electronics. Research in animals as well as some human studies have found links to impaired neurological development, reduced fertility, early onset of puberty and altered thyroid hormones.
Sure, it's not really news that Mountain Dew contains ingredients that aren't exactly healthy, but the fact that people are drinking the same compound that is regularly used to make upholstery flame retardant seems worth noting. The article goes on to trace the FDA history of bromine-including food, saying that some experts think that the old FDA data should be replaced by new studies.
In 1997, emergency room doctors at University of California, Davis reported a patient with severe bromine intoxication from drinking two to four liters of orange soda every day. He developed headaches, fatigue, ataxia (loss of muscle coordination) and memory loss.
In a 2003 case reported in Ohio, a 63-year-old man developed ulcers on his swollen hands after drinking eight liters of Red Rudy Squirt every day for several months. The man was diagnosed with bromoderma, a rare skin hypersensitivity to bromine exposure. The patient quit drinking the brominated soft drink and months later recovered.
Reactions this severe may not be a concern in the general population, the study's doctors said.
"Any normal level of consumption of BVO would not cause any health problems - except the risk of diabetes and obesity from drinking that much sugar water," said Zane Horowitz, medical director of the Oregon Poison Center and author of the 1997 case study.
But in the gamer scene, a normal level of consumption is not normal. Everyone, it seems, knows someone habitually needing a fuel fix, and consuming enough to up his or her risk.
Well okay, that last part seems a little bit anti-video game. But then again, a lot of gamers do drink intense amounts of citrus soda while playing…
(And let's pause for a moment to chuckle at how often all of this stuff uses words with "bro" at the beginning. Truly, "Bromoderma" is a gamer disorder if ever I've heard of one.)
In all seriousness, the article is worth a read. If you really do drink enough soda to give yourself bromoderma or bromine intoxication, maybe consider balancing your diet a bit? You could even just switch to regular colas like Coke and Pepsi, neither of which include BVO.
Brominated battle: Soda chemical has cloudy health history [iwatchnews.org]