BVOs: Not Necessary for Natural Sports Energy Drinks

We should all be aware by now that there are many products in the marketplace that contain ingredients that are there for purposes other than taste or nutrition. These ingredients are known as additives and one that has made the news recently is BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil). Pepsi has announced that it would be removing BVO from Gatorade, in response to public pressure. However, both Pepsi and Cocoa Cola, are continuing to use BVO in other products such as Fanta and Mountain Dew and Powerade.

BVO is an emulsifier, used to prevent oils from separating from the rest of the ingredients. Gatorade is flavoured with citrus oils which are much cheaper forms of adding lemon or orange flavour in comparison to their natural counterparts, which would be lemon or orange juice. Using real juice would not require the addition of BVO but Gatorade, Powerade and all pop are not real beverages.

So why the public pressure now? There have been anecdotal cases of health issues and one human study from the University of Hohenheim in Germany, found those who consume several drinks in short period of time suffered symptoms such as loss of muscle coordination, memory loss, headache and fatigue. A rat study was conducted with the  experimental rats consuming of their normal diet with a 5% addition of BVO sunflower oil. After 105 days the rats developed a significant increase in the triacylglycerol content of the heart, liver and soleus muscle compared to the control group. Now this is a level much higher than the 15 ppm allowed by Health Canada and the FDA as safe. However, the “safe” level does not take into consideration the cumulative effect that could occur drinking multiple drinks daily or over time. Bromines are known hormone disruptors, they compete for the same receptors as iodine which is needed in every tissue in the body, not just the thyroid. Bromine commercial use dates back to the 1940s and were not subjected to testing, as all additives in use before mandatory testing laws were passed in 1964 were grandfathered in with the assumption they were safe.

While Health Canada and the FDA are not currently looking at reviewing the safety of this additive, it has been banned in Europe and Japan and a number of other companies. The biggest issue here in North America is its use in Gatorade or Powerade as these are energy replacement drinks that many athletes consume on a regular basis in order to replenish necessary electrolytes and muscle glycogen stores.  So what are the other options?

  • • Coconut water can be used to replace electrolytes. In one study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that coconut water was effective at replenishing electrolytes as other beverages used in the study.
  • • Honey in water has been shown to help sustain energy during performance and restore muscle glycogen faster after a workout or sports performance. Natural honey-based sports products are available on the market but be sure to read the labels to makes sure they are all natural and using real honey and not honey-flavour glucose.
  • • There is a natural product that can do all that is needed for post-exercise muscle recovery called Endura from Metagenics. It restores electrolytes and water especially sodium, potassium, magnesium. It replenishes glycogen stores rapidly using high glycemic carbs (0 – 2 hours post exercise) specifically  a 4:1 carb to protein ratio to optimize glycogen replenishment rapidly and supports protein rebuilding if there is too much protein  post-exercise, rehydration and glycogen replenishment is slower. Endura also contains antioxidants such as Vitamin C that helps to reduce muscle and oxidative stress. This may be the safest alternative to replace the chemicalized versions so that only one product is needed after a workout.  For more information read the attachment.

Whatever choices are made for replenishing electrolytes and glycogen, it is important to remember that  all the foods and beverages consumed must nourish and support the body. This is the best way to support an exercise program and obtain peak performance. Eat and drink smart.

Metatags: BVO, BVOs, Gatorade, Powerade, Endura, honey, coconut water, Pepsi, Coca Cola, Europe, Japan, Health Canada, FDA


  • • Effect of brominated vegetable oils on heart lipid metabolism, Yolanda B. Lombardo, Adriana Chicco, María Z. Basílico, Claudio Bernal, Raul Gutman, Lipids, July 1985, Volume 20, Issue 7, pp 425-432
  • • Comparison of coconut water and a carbohydrate-electrolyte sport drink on measures of hydration and physical performance in exercise-trained men, Douglas S Kalman1, Samantha Feldman1, Diane R Krieger1 and Richard J Bloomer2, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:1 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-9-1
  • • Effects of ingesting protein with various forms of carbohydrate following resistance-exercise on substrate availability and markers of anabolism, catabolism, and immunity, Richard B Kreider1*, Conrad P Earnest2†, Jennifer Lundberg3†, Christopher Rasmussen1†, Michael Greenwood1†, Patricia Cowan4† and Anthony L Almada5 , Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2007, 4:18 doi:10.1186/1550-2783-4-18
  • • Honey Can Serve as an Effective Carbohydrate Replacement During Endurance Exercise, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2004;18(3):466-72