Do You Know Nutrition: Read food labels carefully

Aug. 30, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.

Phylis Canion

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

I recently bought some sports drinks for my sons. That evening, my son sat down to drink one and was reading the label. He asked me what brominated vegetable oil, and why a vegetable oil was listed as an ingredient. What is this ingredient? I would think since it says vegetable oil that it is OK, but then I wonder why put a vegetable oil in a sports drink? Your input would be most appreciated.

Brominated vegetable oil, known as BVO, is a highly toxic emulsifier and clouding agent used to keep flavor oils in soft drinks and sodas in suspension.

It is also important to look at ingredients listed on bakery products and pastas, as some of these also contain BVO. BVO is primarily composed of bromine, a poisonous chemical whose vapors are considered both toxic and corrosive. BVO is currently banned in more than 100 foreign countries.

However, in the United States, its use is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to the extent that it is "permitted in food or in contact with food on a interim basis pending additional studies." Consumption of BVO increases bromine content in our system that competes with iodine and can cause a condition known as Brominated Thyroid.

Symptoms associated with bromine consumption range from headaches, fatigue and weight gain to cancer and heart and kidney disease. Just 2 ounces of a 2 percent solution of BVO can severely poison a child.

The FDA does state that all products that contain BVO, must declare it on the product label in the list of ingredients, although not all manufacturers are compliant.

My recommendation, avoid at all cost. For a list of products that contain BVO, go to my website, Also, thank you for teaching your children to read labels - an easy rule of thumb - if there are ingredients listed that your children cannot pronounce or do not know what they are, avoid the purchase, (i.e. butter lists it ingredients as, pasteurized cream and salt-if is the salted version, and that is all).

I recently bought a healthier cereal for my children and noticed it stated on the front of the box that the cereal contained choline. Is it a vitamin or mineral? Is it in other foods or is it an additive? It didn't say on the box what choline is or its benefits, so I am wondering if you can help me out on this one?

Although there is never much talk about choline, it is generally included in the B-complex and multi-vitamin formulas, but is now available as an individual supplement. Choline is a nutrient that is involved in the body's use of fats and cholesterol and has been shown to alleviate or prevent the accumulation of abnormal quantities of fat in the liver, according to research scientist Dr. Shari Lieberman.

Not only is choline used in the transportation and metabolism of fats, it is also used in the body to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that permits the sending of messages from nerve fiber to nerve fiber.

Choline is found in legumes, organ and muscle meats, milk, whole grain cereals and is very high in egg yolks. Optimum daily intake is 25-500 mg.

Free Class: Nutrition class on Sept. 12, at Organic Emporium, 2918 N. Laurent St., Victoria. For reservations, call 361-576-2100.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, email her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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