Me and Gatorade go back like the seats in a Camaro. Whenever I was sick as a boy, my dad would bring home lemon-lime Gatorade for me to drink. If I'd wake up in the middle of the night puking like a leper, dad would throw on his leather jacket and high-tail it to Grand Union at 2 AM for some Gatorade. And to this day when I get sick, I go looking for Gatorade in one of the original flavours: lemon-lime, orange or fruit punch. I remember when Gatorade came in those oddly shaped glass bottles. I remember Gator-Gum which may've been some of the best chewing gum ever made. I remember Gator-Mix, they used to sell Gatorade powder mix like Tang in the supermarkets - not sure if they still do. I used to have a Gatorade water bottle I used for years as a kid playing soccer, football, hockey, baseball, whatever I was doing back when I was a jock with a TransAm.
The dude who invented Gatorade actually died a few weeks ago. Gatorade was created by Dr. Robert Cade at the University of Florida in 1965 for the school’s football team and named after the university’s mascot, the Gators.
It started as a special punch concoction he had made for the team to stay hydrated. Cade entered into an agreement with an Indianapolis-based fruit and vegetable canning company called Stokely-Van Camp to produce the product, which he'd already patented.
The Gators football team, at the behest of head coach Ray Graves, began using Gatorade officially in 1967 and went on to win their first Orange Bowl title that year by beating the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Bud Carson, Georgia Tech's coach, when asked why they'd lost, replied: "We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference."
Hank Stram, head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, secured large amounts of Gatorade for his players; the Chiefs attributed their Super Bowl title of the 1969 season to the University of Florida sports drink.
Gatorade became a phenom. The "sports drink" fad was born. Red Bull would come about 20 years later.
Anyway, so Gatorade is basically sugar water. Not unlike what they give you at a hospital in your IV bag: saline and sugar water.
On tour in Alabama one time I was feeling really fucked up. I had self-diagnosed myself with vertigo. I was seeing stardust trails and I'd been feeling lightheaded for about a week.
So I hopped in a car with our tour manager and a dude with one leg. The dude with one leg drove us to the hospital in one of those P.T. Cruisers. He had a mess of old Playboys covering the backseat. When we asked him what the deal was with those, he said his buddy had just gotten married and his girl made him throw out all his porn.
So we get to the hospital in the ghetto of Alabama. I had to pass through a metal detector before I could be admitted. It was that side of town.
Anyway, they gave me a bed, did some EKG tests, and gave me two IV bags of sugar water and like 4 hours later I was on my way. Back to the club, and right on stage. It was very rock n' roll. I still had those little EKG diaphoretic electrode sticker things on me that were falling off during the set.
Long story short, it wasn't vertigo, I was just really dehydrated and my body desperately needed fluids, namely glucose. So basically I could have saved myself a trip to an Alabama hospital if I'd simply just drank a whole mess of Gatorade and replenished my electrolytes. HOLLA.
Anyway, there were always two ingredients in Gatorade I found quite puzzling.
From the most amount to least: water, sucrose syrup, high fructose corn syrup (glucose-fructose syrup), citric acid, natural flavors, salt, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, yellow 6, glycerol ester of wood rosin, brominated vegetable oil and red 4.That all sounds about right save for... Glycerol ester of wood rosin?! and Brominated vegetable oil?!
Surely back in 1965 Dr. Cade wasn't messing with no brominated vegetable oil in his kitchen. Just hearing "brominated vegetable oil" makes me envision a witch, churning her giant black iron cauldron with a long stick, cackling as this neon green ecto-porridge bubbles up to her maleficent delight.
Turns out, I wasn't alone. My girl Baby Ursula fancies a Gatorade now and then and has also always wondered about these same two ingredients. So Baby Ursula did some research.
Turns out glycerol ester of wood rosin is used as a stabiliser for flavouring oils in selected fruit-flavored beverages. This stabiliser weighs down the oils and keeps them in solution.
From the Gatorade site:
Yeah, well it sounds like I'm eating tree sap. Rename it. Call it something chemically like Super OXYC9 JK 49 1/3 Alogeneticykl and I wouldn't bat an eyelash. Call it glycerol ester of wood rosin, and now I need to know what the fuck it is.
"The actual content of the glycerol ester of wood oil in our finished product is at no more than 100 parts per million. This concentration meets FDA regulations. According to our flavour supplier, glycerol ester of wood rosin is one of the most natural of the approved FDA ingredients to perform as stabilizers in fruit-flavored beverages."
Brominated vegetable oil (or BVOO if you're Rachael Ray) is "vegetable oil that has had atoms of the element bromine bonded to it." Huh? Brominated vegetable oil is used as an emulsifier in citrus-flavoured soft drinks such as Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Sun Drop, Squirt and Fresca (Mmmmm!) to help natural fat-soluble citrus flavours stay suspended in the drink and to produce a cloudy appearance.
The addition of bromine increases the density of the oil, and the amount of bromine is carefully controlled to achieve a density that is the same as the water in the drink. As a result, the BVO remains suspended in the water instead of forming separate layers.
So, it's kinda like an oil that prevents Gatorade from looking like a Tequila Sunrise. I get it. It still sounds gross and terribly witchy.
However, there seems to be a lot of beef about this Brominated vegetable oil...
Here's what we found:
1. The main applications for bromine are in fire retardants and fine chemicals like drilling fluids. Mmmm deelish!
2. Bromine is a red volatile liquid at standard room temperature that is intermediate in reactivity between chlorine and iodine. My Gatorade has stuff from a pool in it?
3. Bromine vapours are corrosive toxic. Mmm yes, tell me more!
4. In one case, a man who drank eight liters of Ruby Red Squirt a day had a reaction that caused his skin to turn red like the drink and produced lesions diagnosed as bromoderma.
What up, BROmine?
5. A similar case reported that a man who consumed 2-4 liters of a cola containing BVO on a daily basis experienced memory loss, tremors, fatigue, loss of muscle coordination, headache, ptosis of the right eyelid as well as elevated serum chloride. In the two months it took to correctly diagnose the problem the patient also lost the ability to walk. Luckily bromism was finally diagnosed and hemodialysis was prescribed which resulted in a reversal of the disorder.
Can you imagine losing the ability to walk and then regaining it? Jesus fuck that is crazy.
6. Bromine is a powerful oxidizing agent. It reacts vigorously with metals, especially in the presence of water, as well as most organic compounds, especially upon illumination. Should I not feed my bromine after midnight then?
7. Lastly, elemental bromine is toxic and causes burns. As an oxidizing agent, it is incompatible with most organic and inorganic compounds. Umm, like human beings?
A Pepsi product website notes that BVO has been used by the soft drink industry since 1931. In extreme cases BVO has caused testicular damage, stunted growth and produced lethargy and fatigue. Well, allllllright! Pass the brominated vegetable oil! Let's get loaded!