Sports drinks a flaming failure for your health

Did you see the recent news about putting out another fire…retardant?  This time, the particular flame-fighting chemical making headlines isn’t found in cigarettes or in children’s pajamas and playthings. Believe it or not, it has been hiding out in popular sports drinks.

The culprit is brominated vegetable oil (BVO). Beverage manufacturers add it to sports drinks to help keep the artificial flavors from separating. But before the drink manufacturers got hold of it, this toxin was originally patented by chemical companies as a fire retardant.

BVO made news recently because it’s finally being removed from Powerade, after being taken out of Gatorade last year.  So that’s one kind of “fire in the belly” these drinks won’t be putting out for athletes anymore.

It is bad enough to drink any kind of vegetable oil. But brominated vegetable oil contains bromine, which is chemically similar to the chlorine put in swimming pools to kill every living thing.

Scientists have been concerned about brominated and chlorinated chemicals polluting our environment and water supplies for decades. And now they’re finally concerned about it polluting our bodies too.

Animal studies show that BVO can increase cholesterol and behavioral and reproductive problems. 1,2 In humans, BVO appears to build up in the tissues, and has been linked to headache, fatigue, and memory loss.3

Not exactly what you are looking for in a “performance” drink, is it?

Unfortunately, BVO isn’t  the only thing you should be worried about in sports drinks. These toxic concoctions that are relentlessly foisted on the public—purportedly to keep us hydrated and healthy during strenuous physical activity—are loaded with calories, sugar, and other empty carbohydrates.

Sugar rush

Along with toxic chemicals, sports drinks are also packed with sugar to give you a temporary “high.” Unfortunately, that temporary high can lead to one that lasts much longer—in the form of high, unbalanced blood sugar. Which, as you know, can lead to diabetes.

In the long run, the sugar and other carbs found in sports drinks are good only as a source of calories. And unless you’re an Olympic athlete, chances are you’re not going to burn off those extra calories safely.

Believe it or not, one of the “best” options—and yes, I mean that very ironically—is Mountain Dew Kickstart, with 20 grams of carbs (19 grams sugar) and 80 calories per 16 oz. serving. Of course, the only reason it ranks this “low” is that it also contains the artificial sweetener sucralose—in addition to high fructose corn syrup. I can’t say this discovery surprised me much. My one and only experience with Mountain Dew (soda) many years ago was equally disturbing.

Following a full day of work, I traveled to the Carolinas to give a series of talks and arrived late and hungry. The only available meal was at some fast food joint.  Wanting to avoid the caffeine in colas, I ordered the only non-cola available— Mountain Dew. I’d never had it before, and couldn’t understand why I was up all night. Growing desperate for sleep, I read the entire autobiography of H.R Haldeman (one of President Nixon’s “four horsemen of the apocalypse”). Not even that worked.  Later, I found that Mountain Dew has twice the caffeine as the typical cola.

But, I digress…

Here are some other common sports drinks and their calorie and carb breakdowns:

  • All Sport, 20 oz.—150 calories, 40 grams of carbs (all sugar)
  • Gatorade, 12 oz.—80 calories, 21 grams of carbs (all sugar)
  • Powerade, 12 oz.—80 calories, 22 grams of carbs (21 grams sugar)

But toxins and excess sugar aside, are these sports drinks at least hydrating you?

Wet your whistle

One of the great myths is that all you need to drink is fluids and electrolytes. While this approach (without all the chemical additives in sports drinks) can help with the hydration in your blood and extracellular fluids, your cells must make most of their own water in order to be truly hydrated.

Carbs provide the fuel for cellular hydration, but your cells still need help stoking the fire. Nutrients like Coenzyme-Q10 (ubiquinol) and South African rooibos (red bush) are two good ways to keep your cellular fires burning.

Now that the hot weather is here, it’s especially important to pay attention to healthy hydration. Of course, I recommend Red Joe brand water-soluble rooibos extract which I helped develop. It’s an easy and delicious way to stay hydrated at the cellular level. And it’s a lot healthier than a sports drink spiked with sugar and fire retardants.


The hidden cause of chronic cough

Chronic cough can be a serious problem for some people. Doctors usually ascribe chronic cough to postnasal drip, allergies, asthma, or acid reflux.

But dehydration is often overlooked as a cause. And yet, chronic cough can occur when your respiratory passages are not moist enough. Drinking plenty of healthy fluids will keep those passages hydrated and help stop the hacking.


1Lombardo YB, et al. Effect of brominated vegetable oils on heart lipid metabolism. Lipids. 1985 Jul;20(7):425-32.

2 Vorhees, CV, et al. Behavioral and reproductive effects of chronic developmental exposure to brominated vegetable oil in rats.Teratology. 1983 Dec;28(3):309-18.

3 Horowitz BZ. Bromism from excessive cola consumption. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol. 1997;35(3):315-20.