Dr. Robert Cook - Is It Bad For You? Approved by Dr. Robert Cook

Is Brominated Vegetable Oil Bad For You?

Also Known As: BVO



Short answer

Studies are lacking, but from what we do know, brominated vegetable oil is bad for you and should be avoided whenever possible.



Long answer

Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO as it is commonly abbreviated, is a food additive used as an emulsifier to help citrus flavors mix with soda. Despite there being only scant research on the subject of BVO's impact on health, what has been discovered is not promising and in fact, BVO is banned as a food additive in Europe and Japan, with North America allowing for no more than 15 parts per million. 

The controversy stems from the inclusion of bromine, which is also used in flame retardants. The studies that have been done point to bromine accumulating in the body's fatty tissue with long-term effects still unknown. In 2012, German scientists found that the average adult in the United States gets thousands of times more bromine from drinking sodas than from accidental leakage of organobromines into the environment. 

Anecdotal evidence points to harmful effects with patients who have had no less than 2 liters of soda per day reporting memory loss and problems with their skin and nerves. BVO was also suspected as a possible culprit in the case of a man who had to go on dialysis, although he had been drinking 9 liters per day of soda. 

The fact is, BVO does nothing good for the body and although little is known about it, all studies point to it being harmful. Its purpose is to act as an emulsifier, but this does not make it necessary, as evidenced by the fact that soda is widely available in Japan and Europe (where BVO is banned). 

Even though BVO may only have a harmful effect when consumed in large quantities, we don't know what the long-term effects are, even if consumed in low to moderate amounts. Exercising caution and avoiding drinks that contain BVO is probably the safest way to go on this one.

Possible short-term side effects

  • skin irritation
  • headache
  • fatigue

Possible long-term side effects

  • kidney problems
  • memory loss
  • nerve damage
  • poor balance, coordination and speech

Commonly found in


  • helps citrus flavors mix better with soda

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Written by Jeff Volling | 02-20-2016

Written by Jeff Volling
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