It is common to hear people asking what Xylitol is. Briefly, one can say that xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that comes with a myriad of health benefits.
It belongs to the group of sugar alcohol like Erythritol, and it is known to have a granular structure that is crystalline. It possesses sweetness similar to the one seen in sugar. It is common to see xylitol occurring naturally in a lot of vegetables and fruits. Sometimes, it can be naturally produced by the body.
The word, ‘xylitol’ has its origin from the Greek language, with the roots, ‘Xylo-‘ meaning ‘wood’, as well as ‘-itol’ meaning sugar alcohols.
What is Xylitol sourced from?
Xylitol can be seen in large quantity in birch trees or corncobs. A lot of persons opt for xylitol that is made from corn because it seems more sustainable than the one from birch trees. It is easy to grow corn, but not so easy to grow birch trees. Harvesting corn can be said to be easier than doing the same for the birch tree. This is why opting for xylitol from the corn is more affordable and environmentally friendly.
Since corn is already grown for food, there is no season to get xylitol from birch trees. One great thing is that xylitol is gotten from the cob meaning that there is no longer waste. Instead of the corn cob going to waste, it is used in making xylitol.
Uses Of Xylitol
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is used in making products like confections, dietary supplements, drugs, chewing gum and even toothpaste. Instead of using sugar in all these things, xylitol is opted for. Though used in making a lit of things, it is not as common as its counterparts, Erythritol.
Xylitol is loved because its effect on the blood sugar is very tiny. Why is this so? Xylitol has the capability of being metabolized without the need for insulin. Xylitol is also absorbed a lot slower than sugar, ensuring that the blood sugar level is not increased when you consume xylitol.
Xylitol currently has lower calories than sugar, and it is said to supply about forty prevent lesser than what table sugar supplies.
In the US, xylitol is currently approved by the FDA as a food additive.
Xylitol Food properties
Xylitol currently has a similar sweetness to what sucrose possesses, but possess a lot more sweetness than what other artificial sweetness like mannitol and sorbitol possess.
Xylitol is far sweeter than Erythritol which has about 60% of the sweetness level of sugar.
Currently, xylitol has a glycemic index of 7, which when compared with glucose that has 100, it is extremely low.
Since xylitol and a lot of polyols like Erythritol is heat stable, they are unlike other sugars that caramelize once heat is added to them. This means that if you heat it up, it will refuse to caramelize like other sugars. It is noticed that when you put sugar on a pot and places it on a heat source, it starts to melt and turn brown. The same can’t be said for xylitol.
Once xylitol is added to a mixture, it helps to clamp down on the mixture’s freezing point. This means that a mixture that once had a high freezing point will become lower.
Little Health Risks
If xylitol is consumed normally, there are little health risks to it, and the EFSA- European Food Safety Authority didn’t see the need to place a restriction on how much xylitol should be consumed daily. This doesn’t mean that you should consume a lot of xylitol.
Xylitol has a laxative power like other polyols like Erythritol, hence a large amount of it in your drinks or foods can lead to diarrhea. This is why the EU has banned the use of xylitol in soft drinks.
Research has shown that consuming 50g or above that amount of xylitol daily can lead to diarrhea. This report was published by the EU Scientific Committee on Food in 1985.
This is why those sweeteners that contain xylitol are expected to have a warning on its label, stating that too much consumption of xylitol can cause laxative effects.
For those chewing gums that contain xylitol, they can’t induce diarrhea because the amount of xylitol contained here is small.
Xylitol health effects
Xylitol currently has a lot of beneficial effects on the health of a person, and still some side effects.
Clinical studies have gone on to show that solely xylitol or it is combined with other sweeteners can help to clamp down on the chances of one developing tooth cavity. Xylitol is unlike sugar and other sweeteners that are known to increase the buildup of plaque, and improve the chances of the teeth decaying.
As of 2015, many of these studies may have shown evidence to back this up, but they are not much.
It was noticed that kids that had shed their milk teeth for permanent teeth had a lower risk of developing cavities, especially when they used fluoride toothpaste and took xylitol.
It is noticed that those that chew on gums that have been sweetened with xylitol are known to have fewer cavities than those who do not. The same thing can be said of Erythritol and sorbitol. They are unlike sucrose that can improve the chances of one getting tooth cavity.
The EFSA- European Food Safety Authority- in 2008 had its literature on xylitol revised where it stated that kids that chewed on gum with xylitol had fewer cavities than those who consumed chewing gums with sucrose. It is important not to see xylitol as a medicine, but a sweetener that can help to reduce plaque formation.
Xylitol has little or no calories, hence it is unlike sucrose that can increase the weight of a person. Xylitol can help to manage the body weight since it doesn’t add anything to it.
A lot of persons are lovers of sweet things, but the fact that most sweeteners and even sugar can increase their body weight, they tend to abstain from sweet things. Opting for products that have xylitol can allow you bask in sweet things and not worry about your body weight increases.
Xylitol adverse effects
Though Xylitol may have beneficial health effects, it still comes with its side effects like almost everything known to man.
In humans, xylitol is not toxic, when taken in normal dosage. Once it is taken a lot, xylitol, as well as other polyols like Erythritol and sorbitol, can lead to gastrointestinal issues. If you consume 50g or more of xylitol, you may be left with diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and flatulence.
Though rarely, some persons have been known to have these effects in smaller doses. Whatever you do, try not to consume more than 50g daily.
When you compare xylitol to other sugar alcohols like sorbitol and mannitol, it is noticed that it has a smaller laxation threshold.
It has been noticed that xylitol can help present ear aches to an extent. A study was done in Finland, on those kids that are currently in school or daycare to see the effect of xylitol in 2016. It was noticed that those who chewed gum or drank syrup that had Xylitol, had little or no signs of earaches. This was done on healthy kids. For now, it is not known if it can help to prevent ear infections in those kids that are at high risk of having them or those that are suffering from one respiratory infection to the other.
EFSA went on to analyse the claim that xylitol can help prevent earaches and notices that there was not a lot of evidence to back this claim. This was done in the year, 2011.
For those that are suffering from diabetes and still want to consume sweet things, xylitol may go a long way to help because it has little effect on blood sugar levels.
EFSA, in 2011, went on to approve the claim that those foods that possessed xylitol or sweeteners like it can help to clamp down on blood sugar. It also helped to reduce the insulin responses when you compare it to other beverages or foods that contain sugar.
Xylitol should not be given to dogs. Before you give anything to your dog, check if there is xylitol. This is why it is advised that one shouldn’t feed their dogs the same thing that they eat. Some human foods are great for those, but others can be very harmful. The chocolate that a lot of persons love have little or no effects on humans, but it can be catastrophic to a dog.
If a dog consumes an amount of xylitol that is higher than 100 mg for every kg of its body weight, there will be a fast generation of dose-dependent insulin release, which can lead to hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia, in a lot of cases, can lead to death.
Once the dog suffers from low blood sugar, the dog starts to lose coordination and becomes depressed. It may collapse and start suffering from seizures within thirty minutes of consuming it.
Dogs that have consumed a dosage that is higher than about 500mg of everybody weight are known to have suffered from serious liver failure.
If you can, try to avoid giving xylitol to your dogs.
In small doses, xylitol doesn’t have an effect on the dog, and that can be seen it being used in tiny amounts to make veterinary drinking water additives. These are said to help clamp down on the formation of plaque while freshening your dog’s breath.
Xylitol currently possesses an energy level of 2.4 kcal/g or 10 kJ/mol, based on the food labelling guidelines of EU and US.
The true worth of xylitol differs from this because of some metabolic factors.
One thing that it is important to know is that about fifty percent of xylitol eaten can’t be absorbed by the human intestine. Its counterpart, Erythritol can’t be absorbed in all, not minding that it travels through the body.
Usually, about fifty to seventy-five percent of the xylitol eaten is fermented by the bacteria residing in the gut to form gasses and organic acids which may lead to flatulence.
Some part of the xylitol that is not absorbed is usually excreted without it being changed. A lot of it comes out in the form of faeces. It is common to see about 2g of xylitol of every 100g that was ingested in the urine that has been excreted.
Part of the xylitol is also absorbed through the intestines. The liver is the organ that primarily metabolizes xylitol that is then absorbed by the intestines.
What is Xylitol’s suggested use?
Since xylitol is great for the teeth, it has been advised that daily, people consume at least five grams of it while brushing in the morning or at night. It can also be consumed after every snack or meal. Experts have gone on to say that consuming about ten grams of xylitol is great for the body daily.
It is also great with cleaning your nasal passages. The way you clean your hands should be translated to the way you clean your nasal passage. Try and clean your nose a couple of times in a day by making use of a nasal spray or nasal rinse that contains xylitol.
If you can, try to rinse your nasal passage as much as you wash your hands.