What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate. It is found in fibrous vegetables and fruit. It also occurs naturally in our bodies – in fact, an average size adult manufactures up to 15 grams of xylitol daily during normal metabolism. Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar.
Xylitol has been used as a sweetener in foods since the 1960’s.
Xylitol is only slowly absorbed and partially utilized; therefore a reduced calorie claim is allowed: 2.4 calories per gram or 40% less than other carbohydrates. In addition, the body does not require insulin to metabolize xylitol, which has made it a widely used sweetener for the diabetic diet in some countries. In the U.S., xylitol is approved as a food additive in unlimited quantity for foods with special dietary purposes.
How can we combat the sugar epidemic?
The dangers of sugars and refined carbohydrates in the diet have been well documented. Excess consumption of sugar can cause hypoglycemia and weight gain, leading to diabetes and obesity. Sugar also raises blood pressure, triglycerides and bad cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. Children who consume excess sugar have difficulty concentrating and learning. And that’s just scraping the surface of the havoc sugar causes on our systems!
Considering Americans consume an estimated whopping 68.5 pounds of sugar per person, per year, the nutritional need for a safe, natural sweetener that tastes great and does not lead to health problems is more critical than ever. That sweetener is xylitol!
The “sugar” that won’t wreck your body
While Xylitol is just as sweet as table sugar (sucrose), it has about 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydrates. That in itself can make a big impact on your waistline! Importantly, xylitol is slowly absorbed and metabolized, resulting in very negligible changes in insulin. Xylitol therefore won’t raise your blood sugar like regular sugar, which puts tremendous strain on your system, causing negative health effects.
A healthy choice for many diabetics
Thanks to its insulin-independent nature, xylitol has been used in Germany, Switzerland, Russia and Japan as a preferred sweetener for diabetic diets since the 1960’s. If you do have diabetes, however, it’s important to consult your doctor or diet professional before incorporating xylitol into your daily diet.
A sweet choice for many recipes
Xylitol products are readily available for use in cooking and baking. Xylitol won’t break down with heat like some other sweeteners, so it’s the perfect choice for just about any recipe that calls for sugar. Converting your recipes couldn’t be easier –since xylitol has the same sweetness as sugar, simply use the same amount (1:1)!
Xylitol is widely recognised as a cavity fighter.
Over 25 years of testing in widely different conditions confirm that xylitol use reduces tooth decay rates both in high-risk groups (high caries prevalence, poor nutrition, and poor oral hygiene) and in low-risk groups (low caries incidence using all current prevention recommendations). Sugarfree chewing gums and candies made with xylitol as the principal sweetener have already received official endorsements from six national dental associations.
The Xylitol difference for teeth
Tooth decay happens when bacteria in your mouth consume the sugars we eat. When you eat food containing ordinary sugar (sucrose), it gives bacteria on your teeth energy, allowing them to multiply and start making acids that can eat away the enamel on the teeth. This “acid attack” causes tooth decay and cavities to begin to form.
Xylitol is a natural sweetener derived from the fibrous parts of plants. It does not break down like sugar and can help keep a neutral pH level in the mouth. Xylitol also prevents bacteria from sticking to the teeth. This is how it protects the teeth from tooth decay. With Xylitol, the acid attack that would otherwise last for over half an hour is stopped. Most people are not aware of this benefit because such a claim makes xylitol into a drug, crossing a boundary not allowed by the Food and Drug Administration.
Less bacteria, less acid – healthier teeth!
Because the bacteria in the mouth that are causing cavities are unable to digest xylitol, their growth is greatly reduced. The number of acid-producing bacteria may fall as much as 90%. No acid is formed because the pH of saliva and plaque does not fall. After taking xylitol, the bacteria do not stick well on the surface of the teeth and as a result, the amount of plaque decreases.
Repairing damaged enamel
Research has shown that the use of xylitol also helps repair damage to the enamel. Saliva in itself protects the mouth and teeth. Stimulated saliva in particular contains all the components needed to repair early cavities. If sugar is only taken a couple of times a day, the saliva can do the job alone. But most people take sugar so often that the mouth’s own defensive tools are not enough.
Saliva that has xylitol is more alkaline than saliva stimulated by other sugar products. After taking xylitol products, the concentration of basic amino acids and ammonia in saliva and plaque may rise, and plaque pH rises as well. When pH is above 7, calcium and phosphate salts in saliva start to move into those parts of enamel that are weak. Therefore, soft, calcium-deficient enamel sites begin to harden again.
While reversing a rising trend of negative health and high health-care costs won’t happen overnight, improving your own health can begin sooner than later, and xylitol can have a significant influence on that trend.
Xylitol has also been shown to provide nasal relief
The addition of precise amounts of xylitol to saline nasal spray has been shown to make it more effective in moisturizing and clearing the nasal passages. Xylitol helps prevent bacteria from adhering and helps the body’s natural cleansing processes to clear away these harmful bacteria, reducing the risk of infection. In addition, research has shown other medical benefits of xylitol due to its effect on many types of bacteria.
Medical Benefits of Xylitol
Like sugar, except good for you
Although xylitol tastes and looks exactly like sugar, that is where the similarities end. Xylitol is like sugar, except good for you. While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity, protects against chronic disease and has anti-aging benefits.
Clearing the nasal passages
Research suggests significant benefits to using xylitol as a nasal spray. When infectious germs in the sinuses adhere to mucous membranes and nasal tissues, they can lead to infection and disease. The addition of precise amounts of xylitol to saline nasal spray makes it much more effective in moisturizing and clearing the nasal passages.
Since xylitol reduces the germs, pollutants and irritants from sticking to the tissue, regular use of xylitol nasal spray results in fewer respiratory infections and easier breathing. The concentration of xylitol stimulates our own defensive washing of the nose. Additionally, xylitol decreases the concentration of salt in the airway surface fluid which helps our own antibiotic substances there to be more effective—the problem with saline.
Preventing ear infections
In well controlled studies, doctors in Finland found that 8 grams of xylitol, taken orally every day, prevented about 40% of ear infections. Before bacteria can cause an infection they have to be able to attach to our body. Again, xylitol prevented the germs from sticking to the tissue.
Reducing intraocular pressure
The use of xylitol has been cited in a European patent for treating intraocular pressure – a condition that can develop into glaucoma, a serious disease that causes damage to the optic nerve. It has been reported that the use of a topical solution containing xylitol resulted in lower intraocular pressure.
Xylitol is a food – not a drug; therefore, there are no label claims for any medical benefit on xylitol products.
Where Xylitol Comes From
Xylitol is found widely in nature. In addition to a variety of fruits and vegetables, Xylitol is also commonly extracted from birch bark. It is important to remember, however, that Xylitol is a specific molecule. The Xylitol extracted from one source is exactly the same as Xylitol from any other source – just as the sugar (sucrose) extracted from beets is exactly the same as the sugar we get from sugar cane. Sugar is the ultimate enemy of good nutrition. Today there is ample evidence of the health problems caused by sugar, as well as more and more research demonstrating the positive health effects of xylitol in the diet.
Glycemic Index (click on picture to get clear view)
Xylitol – Natural Health Benefits
Xylitol is a naturally occurring carbohydrate (polyol) that has a 5-carbon structure – distinguishing it from other common sugars based on 6 carbons. This molecular difference is key to xylitol’s benefits. While humans and other higher organisms have a metabolic pathway for using xylitol as an alternative energy source, many microorganisms (including many common pathogenic bacteria) do not. In fact, a number of studies have shown that besides being unable to metabolize xylitol, xylitol actually interferes with bacteria’s ability to adhere to body tissues (especially in the mouth and nasal passages). Furthermore, xylitol has the unique effect of diminishing bacteria’s ability to produce biofilm – thereby making the bacteria more susceptible to antibiotic and natural immune system defenses.
Safety data on xylitol usage has been extensive. Initially discovered in the 1890’s, xylitol wasn’t the subject of intensive study until the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Since then xylitol has remained a highly researched and studied ingredient. While much of the research has centered on xylitol’s dental benefits, studies have also included the areas of diabetes (xylitol is metabolized in the human body independently of insulin levels); wound healing (especially due to its interference with biofilm formation); upper respiratory health (including sinusitis, prevention of otitis media, allergic rhinitis, etc.); calcium absorption; and even atopic dermitis.
Bacterial Adherence in the Nose (click on picture to get clear view)
Xylitol and Diabetic Usage
Xylitol has been used in a number of countries as an effective sugar substitute – it can satisfy the sugar cravings experienced by many patients, especially newly diagnosed diabetic patients struggling to control sugar in their diets. While fully replacing regular sugar and/or glucose sources with xylitol will take some time to build up tolerance, xylitol has the advantage of avoiding “sugar spikes” and can replace sugar on a 1:1 basis – simplifying usage. Xylitol has even been used in parenteral IV applications in hospital settings as a replacement to normal glucose drips.
Xylitol and Biofilm formation/wound healing
A recent area of study that has emerged from the attempt to discover the mechanism for xylitol’s efficacy in dental health, xylitol was noted for significantly reducing the ability of Strep. mutans bacteria to produce plaque biofilm. Subsequent studies have proven xylitol’s usefulness in promoting wound-healing and interruption of bacterial colonies from producing biofilm that untreated led to antibiotic resistance and uncontrolled Staph. aureus infections.
Xylitol and Upper Respiratory Health
While xylitol’s efficacy against Strep. mutans in the oral cavity has been the subject of numerous studies, there have also been several looking at xylitol’s effectiveness against a closely related species, Strep, Pneumonia, the major pathogen in both sinusitis and otitis media. While their normal treatment is antibiotics, the research on xylitol suggests a new dimension for prevention and treatment without the concern about antibiotic resistance and the overuse or inappropriate usage of medications–it’s like soap for the nose.
Why Use Xylitol?
It’s effective .
Studies using xylitol as either a sugar substitute or a small dietary addition have demonstrated a dramatic reduction in new tooth decay, along with arrest and even some reversal of existing dental caries. This xylitol effect is long-lasting and possibly permanent. Low decay rates persist even years after the trials have been completed.
It’s 100% natural.
Xylitol is not an artificial substance, but a normal part of everyday metabolism. Xylitol is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts.
In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay (less than 15 grams per day), xylitol is safe for everyone. The World Health Organization has given xylitol its safest rating for food additives.
It’s convenient to use.
Xylitol can be conveniently delivered to your teeth via chewing gum, tablets, or even candy. You don’t need to change your normal routine to make room for Xylitol.
It tastes great!
Xylitol is a health regimen that doesn’t require iron willpower or discipline. Xylitol tastes so good; using it becomes automatic, for both adults and children.
How to Use Xylitol
It is not necessary to replace all sweeteners to get the dental benefits of xylitol. Look for xylitol sweetened products that encourage chewing or sucking to keep the xylitol in contact with your teeth. The best items use xylitol as the principal sweetener.
Studies show that 4 to 12 grams of xylitol per day are very effective. It’s easy to keep track of your xylitol intake. The “all xylitol” mints and gums contain about one gram of xylitol in each piece. You could begin with as little as one piece four times a day for a total of four grams. It is not necessary to use more than 15 grams per day as higher intakes yield diminishing dental benefits.
If used only occasionally or even as often as once a day, xylitol may NOT be effective, regardless of the amount. Use xylitol at least three, and preferably 5 times every day.
When should I use it?
Use immediately after eating and clearing the mouth by swishing water, if possible. Between meals, replace ordinary chewing gum, breath mints, or breath spray with comparable xylitol products.