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Healthy Diet Plans >>  Sweeteners >>  Natural Sugar Substitutes >>  Xylitol


What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute and is also known as brich sugar or wood sugar. Xylitol is naturally present in various fruits and vegetables that include oats, corn husks, different berries and mushrooms. It can also be extracted from corn, corn fiber, plums and raspberries. Xylitol provides roughly same sweetness as sucrose but has low food energy (provides 2.4 calories per gram). Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and was first derived form brich trees in 19th century in Finland, which is considered as its home country.
Today corn fiber extracts are popular as a source of xylitol.  Xylitol like other sugar alcohol has less impact on blood sugar and insulin levels and is marketed as ‘safe for diabetics and people with hyperglycemia’. Also it is absorbed slowly in the body and provides 40% less food energy when compared to the table sweeteners. It has zero net effective carbohydrates and virtually no after taste. Xylitol gum and xylitol mints are very popular in Finland and it is used in almost all the chewing gums.

Xylitol sugar is a tooth-friendly natural sugar and does not promote plaque formation or dental carries, on the other hand xylitol actively helps to repair the minor tooth cavities caused by dental carries. It is believed that this effect may be due to chemical properties that attracts and starves the harmful microorganisms in the oral cavity, allowing the mouth to remineralize damaged teeth or the minor cavity with less interruption. Xylitol is however not appropriate for making yeast based breads as it exhibits this same effects. U.S. Food and Drug Administration have allowed xylitol based products to make medical claim that they are not involved in the process of dental carries. Xylitol unlike other sugars improves bone density and prevents weakening of the bones, thus may have a potential as a treatment for osteoporosis. Unlike glucose, galactose and sucrose xylitol consumption may prevent proliferation and help control oral infections of candida yeast. Xylitol chewing gum may also be beneficial to prevent ear infections. Xylitol prevents the growth of bacteria in the eustachian tube (a tube that connects nose and ear) and the action of chewing and swallowing helps in the disposal of earwax.

Like other sugar alcohols xylitol when consumed at high doses might have a mild laxative effect. Many people have consumed xylitol for long period of times in high quantities as much as 400 gm per day with no known toxicity. However when consumed greater than 100 mg per kg body weight can be life threatening and is associated with hypoglycemia. This can manifest in depression, loss of coordination, collapse or seizure.
Submitted on January 16, 2014