What is Xylitol and why is it Important?
Xylitol is a natural sweetener that tastes and looks like regular table sugar. Discovered by the German chemist, Emil Fischer in 1891. Xylitol during World War II was used as a sugar substitute in countries where sugar deficiency occurred. Today, this natural sweetener is available in various health food stores. It is a common ingredient used in products including oral care products, sugar-free chewing gums and in some pharmaceuticals.
Xylitol is a substance classified as sugar alcohol or polyalcohol. Although the chemical structure (C5 H11 OH – Xylitol) of sugar alcohol has both alcohol and sugar similarities, they are neither alcohol nor sugar. The molecule contains 5 carbon atoms, hence the name pentanol; in contrast to the 6-sugars and 12-carbon atoms in molecules such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, maltose and lactose. Sugar alcohols are the amalgamations of alcohol molecule and sugar molecule. Their structure helps stimulate sweet taste receptors on the tongue. In addition, though sugar alcohols are carbohydrates, they do not raise blood sugar levels. This makes them popular sweeteners in low — carb products. Xylitol has the same kind of sweetness as regular sugar, yet it contains 40 percent lesser calories. It is refined sugar that does not contain any minerals, vitamins or proteins.
Xylitol is a carbohydrate that is primarily found in birch tree and various fiber foods including mushroom, berries fruits and vegetables. It can also be prepared through an industrial process that converts xylan (plant fiber) into xylitol.
Medical benefits of Xylitol
Xylitol provides various medicinal benefits that can help improve your overall health. Unlike sugar, xylitol contains zero fructose, preventing a spike in blood sugar and insulin levels. Since xylitol is a considered a weight loss friendly sweetener, it is a great sugar substitute for people who are overweight, diabetic or are suffering from other metabolic problem. In addition, when used in oral care products, xylitol helps treat dry mouth and prevent tooth decay. Xylitol can also help cure middle ear infection in children. However, although it unclear how it can prevent conditions such as otitis media (ear infection), it does ease the number of ear infection and helps reduce the intake of antibiotics.
Xylitol is a prebiotic. Unlike sugar that encourages the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria in the gut, xylitol promotes the growth of good gut flora (helpful microorganism found in the digestive tract). In addition, xylitol unlike artificial sweeteners (aspartame and Splenda) prevents yeast growth in the gut. As a result, it is a great choice for those suffering from Candida (chronic yeast infection).
The use of xylitol can be highly beneficial for treating intraocular pressure. Intraocular pressure is a condition that can develop into glaucoma, causing damage to the optic nerve. Using topical solution containing xylitol helped reduce intraocular pressure to a great extent.
Although xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, unlike sugar it does provide numerous health benefits. When consuming excess sugar can wreck havoc on the body, using xylitol helps repair and heal. Using Xylitol helps strengthen the immune system and protects against chronic disease as well as provide anti- aging benefits.
Dental Benefits of Xylitol
One great advantage of xylitol it promotes good oral health. Unlike most sweeteners, xylitol does not allow bacteria to multiply and start making acids that can cause tooth decay and cavities in the mouth. Since xylitol is a natural sweetener, it does not break down like sugar and helps maintain the neutral pH level in the mouth. In addition, the amount of bacteria present in the saliva can contribute to tooth decay. However, the anti- bacterial properties found in xylitol helps reduce the bacteria level, preventing decay. Additionally, xylitol can help ease acidity of saliva, which helps fight acid driven degradation of tooth enamel.
Xylitol is considered to be quite effective for treatment of cavities. Since the bacteria that cause cavities are unable to digest xylitol, their growth is considerably decreased. Xylitol can also be used to treat conditions such as dental carries.
The amount of xylitol present in the foods or products determines its effectiveness in preventing conditions such as cavities, gingivitis or tooth decay. Using products or foods that contain 1-20grams of xylitol can be beneficial to promote oral health.
Xylitol for Bone Health
As you age, the estrogen levels fall, causing your bones to lose their density. The process of everyday living, be it breathing, using muscles or digesting process creates acid in the bones. When acid is created in bones, it becomes essential to neutralize them. To neutralize the acids, the body uses its natural alkaline reserves.
However, since many people create nearly double the amount of acid, the body is unable to handle it. As a result, conditions such as osteoporosis may occur. To promote good bone health, the acid found in the blood and tissues requires to be balanced.
Xylitol helps create an alkaline balance in the body. It helps stabilize the alkaline-acidic balance in the balance and good bone health. Xylitol is an effective tool that helps protect bone mass in women who have got their ovaries removed.
Xylitol helps Boost Immune System
Xylitol has antiviral and antibacterial properties that help it fight against infection in the mouth, sinuses, stomach and throat. Consuming xylitol alkalizes your system and increases its general efficiency. It also helps provide energy to other metabolic processes. Early studies have revealed that xylitol affects a number of blood cells in the body, boosting the infection-fighting power of our body.
Why use Xylitol
A great advantage of using xylitol helps provide long-lasting and possibly permanent dental benefits. Completely natural and safe, xylitol does not contain any artificial substance and have any major side effects. Additionally, it is convenient to use (available in the form of tablets, chewing gum or candy). This makes it easy for an individual to include it in their daily routine without making many changes. What’s more, xylitol tastes great. It is a health regime that does not require you to have discipline or iron willpower. Adults, as well as children, can incorporate it easily into their daily routine.
Xylitol Daily Dosage
To get xylitol benefits, choose xylitol sweetened products that encourage chewing or sucking. Opting for products where xylitol constitutes as a principal sweetener is also recommended. According to FDA, FAO and JECFA, xylitol is completely safe, irrespective of the amount it is consumed on a daily basis. In fact, xylitol has been given the safest rating for food addictive by WHO (World Health Organization). Children can start taking xylitol in the form of pellets (0.5gms) – one pill a day. Taking xylitol at a young age can help prevent childhood caries. Additionally, it can help children stay away from the most general symptoms of acidosis, namely colds, allergies, and parasites.
For adults, consuming from 4gms to 40gms a day (1 teaspoon = 4gms) of xylitol is highly recommended. However, it should be remembered that taking xylitol once a day (regardless of the amount) may not be effective. For best results, use xylitol three to five times a day.
Xylitol provides numerous health benefits. Many doctors and dentist recommend including xylitol in your diet to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis and tooth decay.
Xylitol is often suggested as a weight loss remedy. A great advantage of consuming xylitol is that it helps provide the user the same taste as sugar, but with nearly 40 percent lesser calories. Additionally, consuming xylitol tends to slow down the digestive process slightly. As a result, the person who eats xylitol based foods feels full for a longer time and avoids overeating in a given meal. This makes it easy for an individual to lose or maintain their weight.
What Are the Side Effects of Xylitol?
One of the good things about xylitol is that it has almost no side effects if used as recommended.
However, you may find on the internet some controversy about xylitol. Its side effects such as severe diarrhea, headache and so on… I will say that again (and I’m not saying this because I want you to buy xylitol from my affiliate link): xylitol is really very safe for people and offers great health benefits. Link to research about xylitol side effects: PubMed
To ease xylitol side effects, start consuming xylitol in small doses. Taking excessive of xylitol without being habituated to it can have a strong laxative effect. Xylitol contains de- acidifying properties that can help heal a sick body – read: acidic body… Take a look at the “Symptoms of Acidosis”.
Xylitol can purchase online or from drug or food stores. However, since some companies sell xylitol produce it from genetically modified corn, there are some that sell non-GMO xylitol. It is, therefore, advisable to check thoroughly before investing in GMO derived product.
Recipe for a healthy smoothie with xylitol and omega 3 fatty acids.
You will need:
Put all ingredients into a blender and blend for 2 minutes.
Drink this slowly – mix properly with saliva. Hold for a while in your mouth before swallowing. If you drink this quickly you will still feel hungry.
It is a caloric (over 500 kcal) and biologically rich meal, warming the body and successfully replacing breakfast. Enjoy!
Sources / References:
Xylitol inhibits inflammatory cytokine expression induced by lipopolysaccharide from Porphyromonas gingivalis
Controversies around Xylitol
Recommended Xylitol Daily Dosage Amount
Birch Tree Sugar (“Cukier brzozowy – Ksylitol” – article in Polish) by Dr. Jan Pokrywka