What Do Oil Spills and Laxatives Have in Common?

You guessed it: another nasty chemical. It’s also the same chemical used to mix the ingredients in soda. Dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or DOSS, is used to disperse oil when there’s a major oil spill. Oddly, DOSS is also used in laxatives like Colace and Docusate, in some breakfast cocoas, in vinegars and in salts.

A new research study done by Alexis Temkin, a Medical University of South Carolina graduate student, found that DOSS belongs to a family of chemicals that contributes to obesity. “These chemicals … change the way you respond to calories,” Bruce Blumber, a University of California professor, told Environmental Health News.

When it’s working on an oil spill, DOSS separates oil and water, which makes it easier to recover the oil. After the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, 1.8 million gallons of Corexit, an oil dispersant made from DOSS, were sprayed to break down the oil. And that was good.

But in food or a laxative, DOSS appears to act as an “obesogen,” a chemical that encourages the body to gain weight. In fact, researcher Temkin and her crew have concluded that DOSS can lead to obesity. Temkin said it is important to figure out how much DOSS people are actually being exposed to, which could be a challenge, since it is not necessarily listed as an ingredient in any product you would buy.

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has identified a number of food products that contain DOSS, including Flavor Aid drink mixes, Hawaiian Punch Low Calorie Drink Mix and Fanta, a product of the Coca Cola company. But the list could be much bigger: it could include almost any powdered or granular drink mix or cocoa mix, let alone other laxatives.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

1) Make your own mixes. In addition to DOSS, most drink mixes are high in sugar and artificial colors and flavors, nothing that can be considered part of a healthy diet. Instead, spike your seltzer or soda water with freshly-squeezed lemon, lime or orange juice; pureed strawberries or pineapple; or liquid flavor concentrates produced by reputable dealers who guarantee that there’s nothing other than the concentrated fruit in their syrups.

2) Make cocoa from scratch. Replace packaged cocoa mix with your own concoction, made from 100 percent organic cocoa powder, sugar and powdered milk if you need an alternative to using liquid milk. For every cup of hot cocoa you want to make, you’ll need two tablespoons of cocoa, 1/3 cup powdered milk and one tablespoon sugar (unless you like it much sweeter). Mix the dry ingredients together and keep in an air-tight jar. Dole out 1/2 cup of the mixture into a glass jar with a lid, then close tightly and shake until the ingredients are well-mixed. Take the lid off the jar and microwave on high heat for about a minute. Voila.

3) Eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water. Adding fiber to your diet will reduce your need to use laxatives. Drinking 6-8 glasses of water a day will help, as well.

4) Research your favorite brands, and switch to healthier brands. If you love a particular soda, look for a version of it that does not contain DOSS. You may need to contact the product manufacturer to get full ingredients disclosure, but it will probably be worth it.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you!

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Yuck. We drink very few sodas. Usually when we do drink them, they are from the health food store.

Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

This is awful. Food additive and toxic dispersant all in one.

Sam Adam
Past Member 3 years ago


Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago

I don't drink soda any more.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Thank you

Carole R.
Carole R3 years ago

Good to know. Thanks.

James Berryhill
James Berryhill3 years ago

Ouch,is nothing safe anymore. I already make my own soap,candles and other stuff.
Tonight,I treated the cats to some home-cooking. Well,more on my list,thanks.

Kamia C.
Kamia T3 years ago

Yet another reason I don't drink sodas any more. Plain seltzer water can be mixed with a wide variety of flavorings to get yummy tastes.

Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard3 years ago

thank you