What is Xylitol?
It is a 100% natural product, a sweetener that occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables and produced in small amounts by the human body. It has the same sweetness as sugar (sucrose) but with 40% fewer calories and none of the negative tooth decay or insulin release effects of sugar. Xylitol also has a low glycemic index (7) and has little effect on blood sugar levels.
Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. Xylitol is recommended by dentist, medical doctors, periodontists, pediatricians, and many health organizations and health professionals worldwide as a sweetener for anyone concerned with dental health, upper respiratory health, and sugar consumption, in general.
How does xylitol differ from other sweeteners?First, xylitol is all natural, not an artificial chemical like aspartame, sucralose and Splenda®. Chemically speaking, xylitol differs from other sweeteners such as sorbitol, fructose and glucose because its molecule has five, instead of six, carbon atoms. Most bacteria and yeast in the mouth are unable to make use of xylitol.
It is much sweeter than sorbitol, for instance. While it contains about 40% fewer calories than sugar, xylitol's sweetening power is the same as that of sucrose (table sugar). Xylitol is an important supplement because it may help to reduce the risk of tooth decay, and everyone interested in healthy teeth should be familiar with its properties and effects.
Is xylitol safe?Absolutely! In 1983, a joint expert committee of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations confirmed that xylitol is a safe sweetener for foods. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also confirmed this fact in 1986.
Can diabetics use xylitol?The body does not require insulin to metabolize xylitol. For this reason polyols like xylitol produce a lower glycemic response than sucrose or glucose. This has made xylitol a widely used sweetener for the diabetic diet in some countries. If you do have diabetes, however, it’s important to consult your doctor or diet professional before incorporating xylitol into your daily diet.
Why does xylitol help protect teeth from cavities?Sugar feeds bacteria in your mouth, causing them to multiply rapidly. This metabolic process produces acids that cause cavities to begin to form. When you use xylitol gum or mints, the acid attack that would otherwise last for over half an hour is stopped. Because the bacteria in the mouth causing caries are unable to ferment xylitol in their metabolism, their growth is reduced. The number of acid-producing bacteria may fall as much as 90%. Since no acid is formed, the pH of saliva does not fall.
What are the other health benefits of xylitol?First, you are doing your body a big favor by substituting more xylitol for sugar in your diet. While xylitol is just as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), it has about 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydrates. Xylitol also won’t raise your blood sugar like regular sugar does, putting tremendous strain on your system, causing negative health effects.
Xylitol has also been proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Research shows that this effect enables xylitol to help prevent bacteria and irritants from adhering to upper respiratory passages when used as a nasal wash. Studies have also shown that 8 grams of xylitol, taken orally every day, prevented about 40% of ear infections. For more information on these and other benefits, visit our Medical section.