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What is Xylitol?

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I run into so many people that ask me "What is Xylitol"? Xylitol is the name for a naturally occurring sugar polyol which is made mainly from the fibers of corn husks or the bark from a birch tree.

However, Xylitol can also be derived from beets, oats, some mushrooms and certain fruits and vegetables as well.

Xylitol is uniquely different because it is a 5 carbon molecule instead of a 6 carbon molecule like most other sugars.

This small but important difference is the key to it's benefits as a food ingredient and it's use in the medical and dental fields.

Our bodies actually produce up to 15 grams per day of xylitol as a part of the normal metabolism process.

What is Xylitol's History?

Xylitol was first manufactured by a German chemist in 1891. It was further developed and purified by the 1930s. It became useful during WWII as Finland searched for an alternative to the sugar shortage.

By the 1960’s Xylitol became the sweetener of choice in Germany, Switzerland, Soviet Union and Japan.

Xylitol was not really known or used in the US and Australia at that time. Most likely due to the cheap and abundant supply of cane sugar making Xylitol less economically viable.

But the US finally got on board. In 1963 the FDA approved Xylitol for use in unlimited quantities in food and listed it as having no known toxic levels in human consumption.

Are There Xylitol Side Effects?

The only minor concern is that sensitive people may need to start slowly.

I personally didn't have a problem, but for some people, taking in too much Xylitol too quickly can result in mild diarrhea or slight cramping.

But once your enzymatic activity adjusts to the higher intake levels, the discomfort usually disappears. So just to be sure, start slowly at first.

Is Xylitol Safe?

Yes, the FDA has stated that Xylitol is safe for human consumption in unlimited quantities.  If you're still questioning what is xylitol, you can find more information on Xylitol on Web MD.

While it is very safe for human use, this is not true for dogs. 

Don't let your dog ingest Xylitol as it may cause a sudden and potentially fatal drop in canine blood sugar!

 Xylitol's Health Benefits

  • It's naturally sweet with no strange aftertaste
  • Looks & tastes like sugar
  • 40% fewer calories & 75% less carbs than sugar
  • Glycemic index of Xylitol is 7, sugar at 60-65
  • Safe for diabetics (no negligible insulin change because it’s absorbed slowly
  • Inhibits growth of bacteria that causes middle ear infections in young children
  • Studies in Finland show it may help in reversing bone loss
  • Reduces insulin resistance caused by over consumption of sugar(insulin resistance is a key factor in diabetes, cholesterol & triglyceride levels, hypertension and increased risk of heart disease)

 Xylitol's Oral & Dental Benefits

Xylitol inhibits the ability of bacteria to adhere to tissues in the mouth and cannot be metabolized by bacteria.  This drastically slows down the process that creates harmful, enamel-eating acids.

Other oral and dental benefits include:

  • non cario-genic (doesn't cause cavities)
  • Reduces cavities by 80%
  • Significant long-term reduction in cavities (88-93%)
  • Reduces dental plaque formation by making plaque less adhesive
  • Raises pH level in mouth lower acidic pH encourages bacterial growth)
  • Stimulates saliva flow
  • Promotes calcium and phosphate
  • Promotes enamel re-mineralization
  • Reduces gum tissue inflammation
  • Helps with dry mouth and bad breath

What is Xylitol to Weight Loss?

Xylitol can be very effective for those wanting to lose weight.

It's a delicious, low-calorie, has all the sweetness of  sugar, yet has 40% fewer calories and 0g of sugar.

Xylitol is an ideal alternative sweetener in foods prepared for weight loss. 

You can use Xylitol in place of sugar on foods like fruit and cereal and in coffee.

Since it measures and pours just like sugar, I use it in my cooking as well. It converts very well in all recipes.

If you're making bread, don't use xylitol because it will not activate the yeast.

Also, it won't caramelize and crystallize when making candy etc.

Using Xylitol in place of sugar is an effective way to cut calories and reduce the insulin spike. 

Switching to Xylitol can be very helpful if you are trying to lose weight but still want an occasional sweet.

Xylitol can be found in gum, candy, toothpaste, mouthwash and many other products.

Now when someone asks you.... What is Xylitol?, you will be loaded with all the facts!

Additional Resources

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