What is Xylitol?
Xylitol represents a low-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index. A couple of studies state that it might have a beneficial effect on oral health, impede ear infections and offer some antioxidant properties. Xylitol comes with an extremely low glycemic index and it doesn`t boost blood sugar or insulin levels
Mainly, Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, a carbohydrate that does not feature any alcohol. It happens naturally in fruits, veggies, trees, corncobs or even in the human body.
Xylitol is usually used as a replacement for sugar due to its sweet taste and little to no calories in comparison with regular sugar.
You can find this ingredient in distinct products such as sugar-free gum, toothpaste or as a sugar alternative in baking.
Following, we will analyze all the facts and said-to-be health benefits of Xylitol, along with its side effects, interaction with medication, recommended intake and similar products.
How does Xylitol work?
Even though it has a sweet taste, Xylitol does not transform in the mouth in acids that promote tooth decay. It lowers the number of bacteria in saliva that lead decay and it can fight other bacteria responsible for ear infections.
It is said to be beneficial for
Inhibiting dental decay – products that are rich in Xylitol, including chewing gum, candies or toothpaste offer up to 20 grams of xylitol daily, which can diminish the occurrence rate of tooth decay in adults and kids of 5 years and older. These products with xylitol in their composition seem to be more effective for cavities prevention than it is the case of sorbitol. Yet some manufacturers of chewing gum add xylitol in small amounts, being extremely low than the dosage needed for decay prevention. There is no study to state whether or not xylitol aids in cavity prevention in children younger than 5 years.
Xylitol is also used as a sugar alternative to be used instead of sugar.
Probably efficient for:
Diminishing the occurrence rate of ear infections in preschool kids. With a correct dosage of Xylitol in foods, kids appear to notably experience fewer ear infections. Yet, adding xylitol in their diets as soon as an acute respiratory issue happens, doesn`t appear to be effective in preventing ear infections.
Additional studies needed for:
- Dental plaque: a product rich in xylitol doesn`t appear to be effective in dealing with dental plaque in kids. But it is not established if other xylitol products might be efficient.
- Sinus issues: in some cases, people tend to make use of a special solution to cleanse their sinuses. These bottles are packed with saline water. It is believed that using xylitol instead of salt can diminish symptoms, such as a stuffy nose.
- Preventing the sensation of dry mouth;
- Acting as a benefic sugar replacement for patients with diabetes
Xylitol safety concerns and potential side effects
The dosage of xylitol commonly found in foods is said to be safe
It appears to be safe as medicine for almost all adults if the daily dosage does not exceed 50 grams. Also, it appears to be safe in combination with water for dealing with sinuses issues. Yet, it is best to avoid ingesting high dosages. Some believe that exceeding the recommended daily dosage for an increased period of time ( more than 3 years) can promote the appearance of tumors. Xylitol can cause diarrhea and intestinal gas as its side effects. It is likely to be safe for kids as medicine if the dosage is up to 20 grams daily.
Extra caution for pregnant or breast-feeding ladies
There is no evidence that can either confirm or infirm the potential side effects on pregnancy or breast-feeding. Hence, it is best to avoid using this ingredient.
What is the recommended dosage of Xylitol?
A couple of studies done by specialists focused on the following recommended dosage:
- Administered inside the mouth
Preventing cavities in both adults and children: several dosages have been used for tooth decay prevention. Usually, 7 to 20 grams daily are used into 3 to 5 doses offered in the form of candy or gum. It is best that xylitol gum to be chewed for up to 20 minutes after eating.
- Administered inside the mouth
Tooth decay prevention: for kids 5 years or older there are distinct dosages used. Mostly, those range from 7 to 20 grams each day, split into 3 to 5 doses, offered in the form of candy or gum. It is best that xylitol gum to be chewed for up to 20 minutes after eating. Also, a candy packed up with 5 to 8 grams of xylitol can offer similar benefits. There is a need for additional research to determine whether or not xylitol can aid in tooth decay prevention in kids less than 5 years old.
- Preventing ear infection in children: the recommended dosage per day is 8.4-10 grams of xylitol in gum, lozenges or syrup, administered in 5 distinct doses after meals.
The main side effect of added sugar and high-fructose corn syrup is the fact that it can boost blood sugar and insulin levels.
This happens because of its high content of fructose. Also, it can encourage insulin resistance and a multitude of metabolic issues when ingested in excess.
Anyhow, xylitol has zero fructose and little to no impact on blood sugar and insulin.
So, the side effects of sugar do not apply to xylitol.
Xylitol has a glycemic index of 7, while table sugar has an index that ranges between 60 and 70.
Also, it can be labeled as suitable for weight loss diets, because it has 40% fewer calories than sugar. And it is a great alternative for patients that suffer from diabetes, prediabetes, obesity or metabolic issues.
Even though human studies are not available for us to consult, a couple of rat researches revealed that xylitol can improve the symptoms of diabetes, diminish belly fat or even prevent weight gain.
Potential Benefits of Xylitol
- Xylitol supports oral health
Several dentists encourage their patients to use gum with xylitol. Some studies showed that it can improve oral health and aid in preventing tooth decay. Mostly, tooth decay occurs because of an oral bacterium named Streptococcus mutans. It is a bacterium that encourages plaque formation. It is indeed normal to have some plaque on teeth. Yet an excess of plaque determines the body to attack the bacteria in it, having, as a result, inflammatory gum disease such as gingivitis.
These bacteria thrive on glucose from food, yet they cannot use xylitol. This is the main reason why using xylitol as a sweetener lowers the chances of developing such bacteria. Moreover, the bacteria still ingest xylitol and it ends up unable to absorb glucose from other foods. This means that their energy-producing pathway is unusable and they will eventually die.
Simply put, when you use xylitol, the bacteria commonly found in your mouth cannot feed and ultimately dies.
One particular research showed that gum with xylitol can diminish the levels of harmful bacteria by 27-75%, while good bacteria levels are unchanged. Research done on animals suggest that xylitol might boost the calcium absorption process in the digestive system, preventing osteoporosis and protecting teeth against decay. Other studies done on humans reveal that xylitol no matter its form of administration can diminish both cavities and tooth decay by 30-85%.
Diminishing plaque and gum inflammation can have a potential benefic impact on other chronic diseases, as inflammation is the starting point of many issues.
- Xylitol diminishes ear or yeast infections
As you probably know, your mouth, nose, and ears are connected. Hence, bacteria from the mouth can lead to ear infection, a recurrent issue in kids. It seems like xylitol can starve such bacteria similar to how it starves plaque-producing bacteria.
One particular study in kids with constant ear infection discovered that administering daily xylitol-sweetened chewing gum lowered their infection rate by up to 40%. Moreover, xylitol can fight the yeast Candida albicans, responsible for the candida infections. It impacts the yeast`s ability to stick to surfaces and it prevents the infection from occurring.
Some potential health benefits
Collagen represents a protein in the body, usually identified in vast quantities in the skin and connective tissues. A couple of studies done on rats connect xylitol to a boost in collagen production. This might aid in dealing with aging signs on your skin.
At the same time, xylitol might act as a protective layer against osteoporosis, because it boosts bone volume and mineral in rats.
Always remember that there are no definitive studies done on people to confirm such benefits.
Also, xylitol uses the friendly bacteria in the gut and acts as a soluble fiber, that boosts your digestive health.
Xylitol and its toxicity for dogs
In people, xylitol is a compound absorbed at a lower rate and it has no instant impact on insulin production. But this is not the case with dogs.
When dogs ingest xylitol, their bodies perceive it as glucose and immediately produce vast amounts of insulin.
Hence, the dog`s cells start getting more and more glucose from the bloodstream, causing hypoglycemia, low blood sugar levels or even death.
Xylitol might impact negatively a dog`s liver functions, while it is believed that in higher doses it can lead to liver failure.
It was discovered that only 0.1 grams per kg of body weight can lead to negative effects on a dog`s health. Hence, a 6-7 pound or 3kg chihuahua will become sick after ingesting only 0.3 grams of xylitol. This is less than the average amount in only one gum.
It is best to secure xylitol products to prevent your dog from ingesting it. But if you think that your dog mistakenly ate xylitol, it is best to visit your vet immediately.
Side effects and recommended dosage
In most situations, xylitol is believed to be well tolerated by the body. Yet some people stated that it might have digestive side effects if consumed in large quantities. This happens because of the sugar alcohols that can redirect water into your intestine or even get fermented by gut bacteria.
It can cause gas, bloating or diarrhea, but it is believed that the body can adjust quickly to xylitol. The key is to boost the intake of xylitol as slowly as possible and allow your body to adjust. This is likely to lead to little to no side effects.
However, researchers believe that the long-term administration of xylitol is entirely safe.
A study that focused on people that ingested around 3.3 pounds or 1.5 kg per month, meaning a daily dosage of over 400 grams, found that there were no side effects experienced.
We tend to add sugar alcohols to beverages for an additional sweet taste. You can replace regular sugar with xylitol for such purposes in a 1:1 ratio. But it is best to avoid adding xylitol to your diet if you suffer from an irritable bowel syndrome or an intolerance to FODMAPs.
Xylitol and medication
At the moment, there is no identified specific drug interactions with xylitol, for either prescribed or over-the-counter medication. But it is best to ask your medical practitioner about possible issues before administering xylitol.
What are the alternatives to Xylitol?
In most foods and beverages, you will find a wide range of low-calorie sugar replacements. Many of these alternatives can be found as table-top sweeteners and are commonly used in baking.
A couple of sugar replacements are notably sweeter than regular sugar. Yet the sweetness of xylitol resembles quite well the one of sugar itself.
Some other sugar substitutes
Sorbitol represents sugar alcohol that resembles quite well the composition of xylitol. It does not boost blood sugar levels; meaning it’s a good sugar replacement for those that suffer from diabetes.
Similar to xylitol, sorbitol cannot be used by bacteria as food, preventing tooth decay.
Erythritol is also sugar alcohol. Like xylitol, erythritol prevents the growth of S. mutans. A study from 2016 showed that big concentrations of erythritol can be more efficient in diminishing oral plaque when compared to xylitol or sorbitol. But xylitol remains more efficient than erythritol at lower concentrations.
Stevia represents a natural sweetener obtained from the stevia plant. It comes in either granular or liquid form. This extract is 250-300 times sweeter than table sugar. And similar to xylitol, stevia can lead to some side effects such as diarrhea or digestive problems.
Stevia extract products can be bought online.
Agave nectar is a syrup obtained from the agave plant and can be used as a sugar replacement for some beverages or foods.
But agave nectar is rich in fructose, which bacteria in the mouth can use to transform it in acids that promote tooth decay.
Several agave nectar products can be bought online.
Xylitol is the best option if you are looking for a sugar replacement.
Even though a couple of artificial sweeteners can lead to some health issues, research reveals that xylitol can offer a couple of health benefits.
It won`t increase blood sugar or insulin levels, while it can prevent bacteria in the mouth from thriving. It prevents tooth decay and it can protect your digestive system.
Hence, if you are seeking a healthier solution and want to replace table sugar, you might want to try xylitol.