The Scary Truth about Sports Drinks
Are you drinking a fluid replenisher... or a chemical cocktail?
What does it take to fight a $3.9 billion industry?
Apparently just a 15-year-old volleyball player and 200,000 signatures...
According to news reports, a teenager was in the process of consuming a bottle of orange-flavored Gatorade when she noticed the words "brominated vegetable oil" (BVO) on the ingredient list. BVO is used to stabilize the citrus flavor in many varieties of sports drinks.
After some quick research, the teen found that not only is BVO used as an industrial flame retardant, but it's also banned from food products in both Europe and Germany...
Excess consumption causes a condition known as bromism, which can cause skin lesions, memory loss, tremors, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, and headaches.
Side effects aside, why would you want to drink something that has a form of vegetable oil in it?
Gatorade has since promised to remove the chemical from their products, but the entire incident begs the questions:
- Which chemicals are they going to replace it with?
- What other unhealthy additives will you find swimming in your sports drink?
Gatorade is said to be considering Sucrose acetoisobutyrate or Glycerol ester of wood rosin as a replacement — more frankenfood additives compliments of Big Beverage and food "technology."
These additives are considered "generally recognized as safe" by the FDA. But since the FDA considers it wise to pump farm animals full of antibiotics and still thinks BPA (a known hormone disrupter) is safe for human consumption, I'll take their recommendations with a grain of salt.
After all, they wouldn't want to upset their corporate donors.
And that might be the least of your worries when it comes to sports drink ingredients...
Here's a list of the four most popular sports drinks and their ingredients:
- Gatorade (owned by PepsiCo): Water, Sucrose, Dextrose, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Monopotassium Phosphate, Modified Food Starch, Glycerol Ester of Rosin, Blue 1 (and in some flavors, the above mentioned brominated vegetable oil).
- Powerade (owned by Coca-Cola): Water, glucose, fructose, citric acid, mineral salts (sodium chloride, magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium phosphate), flavorings, acidity regulator (potassium citrate), stabilisers (acacia gum, glycerol esters of wood rosins), sweeteners (sucralose, acesulfame K), color (brilliant blue) (some flavors also contain brominated vegetable oil).
- Vitamin Water (also owned by Coca-Cola): Spring water, fructose, sugar, citric acid, vitamins (C, niacin, E, pantothenic acid, B6, folic acid), sweetener (steviol glycosides), mineral salt (ferric pyrophosphate), color (anthocyanins), natural flavorings.
- Lucozade (found in Europe, made by Big Pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline): Water, carbohydrate blend (glucose syrup, maltodextrin), citric acid, acidity regulator (sodium citrate), stabilizer (acacia gum), preservatives (potassium sorbate), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), sweeteners (aspartame, acesflame K), flavouring, vitamins (niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, B12), color (beta carotene).
The second largest components of these drinks — sucrose, dextrose, glucose fructose, maltodextrin, "carbohydrate blend" — is our old friend, sugar.
Don't let those scientific names fool you... for the most part, they'll all have the same results on your metabolic system. They'll raise your blood sugar and/or triglyceride levels. The former will release insulin, therefore prompting the body to store a lot of those calories as fat; the latter is linked to all sorts of bad changes in your cardiovascular system.
What boggles my mind is why three of those drinks would have both regular sugars and artificial sweeteners — as if one alone wasn't bad enough for you.
You might have also noticed the slew of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C and Vitamin B complexes that are added to these beverages...
Vitamin consumption is tricky, as vitamins and minerals often rely on other factors for complete absorption into the body (like the freshness of the source or what else it is consumed with). Your best bet is to get these vitamins from fresh meat, fruit, and vegetables, as opposed to a chemical-laden sports drink.
Other chemicals you might want to be aware of:
- anything marked preservatives (if it makes food last unnaturally long, imagine what it's doing to your body)
- monopotassium/potassium phosphate (used as a fertilizer and fungicide)
- calcium chloride (can cause esophagus and throat burning, as well as stomach irritation and ulcers in large enough concentrations)
Hydration is a very important part of physical activity. It helps cool the body, keeps your blood from thickening, and keeps your lung tissue from drying out, among other things...
Unless you're a high-performance athlete (I'm talking Olympic athlete or marathon runner), there's probably no need for you to worry about the electrolytes you so often hear need to be replenished... Water will do. And you should be getting vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, first and foremost.
If you are taking part in extremely heavy physical activity, try drinking coconut water. It's full of electrolytes, and has just enough carbs to keep you fueled without making you fat.
Plus, you won't have to worry about downing a whole chemical cocktail just to get those nutrients.
Yours in health,