Just in case you need another reason to avoid sweetened drinks, brominated vegetable oil (BVO) lurks in many citrus-flavored sodas and sports drinks. BVO is vegetable oil bonded to the chemical bromine, and the makers of drinks such as Powerade, Mountain Dew, Fresca and Squirt use it to help emulsify oil-based flavoring agents. Banned as a food additive in Europe, India and Japan, BVOs were first categorized by the FDA as “generally recognized as safe” in 1958. But in 1970, the FDA reversed that decision after studies linked the consumption of brominated oil with heart disease in rats. BVO was then classified as an “interim food additive” pending more research—still its status today. While minimal research has been conducted on the safety of BVOs, a few studies suggest that bromine can build up in our bodies over time. After extreme soda binges (2 to 8 liters daily), a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine.
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