Does the mention of the word Xylitol conjure up pictures of some chemical compound or drug in your mind? Well, it is a natural sweetener with several health benefits. Xylitol is basically a sugar alcohol, which is found in a number of fruits and vegetables such as mushrooms, corn husks, yellow plums, raspberries and oats. It is very beneficial to human health. Read on to know more!
Xylitol is often extracted from birch tree barks for commercial production (1). Of late, it is being used widely as a substitute of regular sugar. as it has lower calorie content. The FDA approved it for use in foods several decades ago (2).
Nuances Of Xylitol:
Xylitol was invented in the late 1890s and in the 1930s, it was synthesized in a usable form. During the World War II, it was used in a lot of countries as a sugar substitute. Those countries were facing a shortage of sugar at that time. Nowadays, it is sold in several health food stores along with stevia as an alternative and healthier sweetener. It is also used to make “sugar-free” chewing gums and candies. Besides, it is used to make toothpaste and mouthwash. Xylitol looks like white, crystalline powder.
While earlier birch sugar was said to be the gold standard for making Xylitol, that does not hold true anymore. It is also made from corn. As a matter of fact, the source, the quality of the source and the manufacturing process play huge roles in efficacy of Xylitol. . The plant or fruit pulp undergoes extensive treatment to turn into the final form of Xylitol. You may see it in lieu of sugar in many beverages and foods easily.
Top Health Benefits Of Xylitol:
Whether you intake Xylitol as a sweetener in making foods or chew candies made of it, you will get plenty of health benefits. Major health benefits of this sugar alternative are:
1. Low Calories:
People who on a diet and are worried about daily calorie consumption can use Xylitol instead of sugar. It is lower in calories and so intake of foods made with Xylitol can result in reduction of overall calories (3). While a gram of table sugar has 4 calories, a similar amount of Xylitol has only 2.4 calories.
2. Dental Health Enhancement:
Intake of Xylitol can be quite beneficial for the health of your gums and teeth (4). It has been indicated by several studies that using Xylitol helps prevent bacterial growth inside the oral cavity. It also helps to thwart tooth decay and reverse the damage in the long run, as documented evidences show. When you chew gum containing Xylitol, it helps create a pH balanced environment inside the mouth.
While Xylitol has a sweet taste, it does not get converted into acids in the mouth, quite unlike most sweet substances. It does not lead to tooth decay. On the contrary, intake of Xylitol fights decay-causing bacteria present in saliva. Studies have shown its use can be effective in resisting activities of oral bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. These bacteria are responsible for tooth decay in both adults and children and they also lead to plaque formation on the teeth.
When the amount of plaque on the teeth exceeds the normal levels, your immune system starts attacking the bacteria. It often leads to the onset of inflammatory gum ailments like gingivitis (5). The good thing is, the oral bacteria cannot work on Xylitol as they do with sugar. Consumption of Xylitol eventually results in the elimination of such bacteria as they cannot derive energy to multiply after absorbing it. Moreover, Xylitol does not impact the healthy bacteria in the mouth or body much.
Intake of Xylitol helps in lowering the acidity of saliva. This aids in thwarting acid-driven degradation that your teeth enamel are subjected to. When saliva is less acidic, it actually helps protect your teeth enamel. This does not happen normally as people tend to consume a lot of sugar containing food. By using Xylitol, you can let saliva do its job properly!
3. Calcium Absorption:
Calcium is a mineral required by the human body for bone development and various physiological activities (6). Eating Xylitol helps the body absorb calcium from foods in a better manner. This can ensure your bones and teeth get the adequate supply of calcium. Eventually, you can prevent teeth and bone decay to an extent. This can also be helpful for those individuals dealing with bone depletion related disorders.
4. Prevents Yeast Infection:
Xylitol has probiotic properties and so it aids helpful microorganisms in the digestive tract (7). Unlike sugar, it stops the growth of unhealthy bacteria in the gut. It is often used to inhibit growth of yeast infections.
5. Good For Diabetes:
People afflicted with any form of diabetes have to adhere to restrictions on sugar intake. Intake of Xylitol does not lead to any surge in blood glucose levels. It does not interfere with insulin either. It has a low glycemic index value and that explains why it enjoys the support of the American Dietetic Association (8).
6. Helps Fight Various Infections:
Having healthy and adequate amount of white blood cells in your body is a prerequisite for fighting various infections. A number of studies have shown that Xylitol intake can enhance WBC. One study showed that children suffering from chronic ear infections benefitted from regular usage of Xylitol based chewing gum (9). There are claims that its consumption can be helpful for kids who do not respond well to antibiotics for ear infections.
7. Helps Boost Collagen Production:
Collagen is the major protein that plays a role in skin texture and health (10). Without abundant production of collagen, your skin will loosen and signs of ageing will set in. It is somewhat inevitable, but you can slow down the process by eating foods that enhance collagen generation in the body. Studies conducted on rodents have shown Xylitol usage can result in enhanced collagen production. Human trials have not been undertaken yet, but the results are quite promising.
8. Helps Fight Hunger Pangs:
It has been observed that Xylitol can help you stay fuller for a longer time. It may help reduce hunger pangs and reduce the need for binge eating. This can be helpful for those who want to avoid excess weight gain.
9. Helps Keeps The Body Alkaline:
Xylitol helps maintain an alkaline environment inside your body, which makes it difficult for harmful bacteria to thrive. This is in stark contrast to sugar, which promotes an acidic environment in the human body. In fact, acidic system leads to calcium depletion from bones.
Cautions To Keep In Mind:
It is almost universally accepted that Xylitol is safe for general consumption by both genders. As a matter of fact, the FDA gave its nod to its use as an additive in 1963 and approved its usage as a sugar substitute in 1986. If you use Xylitol in recommended and moderate amounts, there should not be any problem or side effects, says the medical community.
It is well tolerated by both men and women till up to 50 grams per day. For the kids, the safe daily intake limit is 20 grams. If you consume this in elevated amounts, there is an increased risk of side effects. When you intake it in more than recommended amounts, the following side effects can happen:
- Intestinal gas, bloating
- Stomach upset
These can be caused in some individuals because sugar alcohols are not really broken down like other foods during digestion. They tend to have a laxative effect on your body.
You can start using the sweetener in small amounts and then increase a bit. This will help your body adjust to it and risk of side effects will be mostly eliminated. You also need to keep an eye on overall Xylitol intake to be safe! Remember that your body also gets some amount of it from fruits and vegetables including berries, sugar cane and beet. So, if you take Xylitol along with eating these fruits, the recommended limit may be exceeded.
There is no documented evidence of Xylitol intake being risky for women who have conceived or are breastfeeding. However, such women should seek medical advice for its intake to be on the safe side.
While using Xylitol is suitable for humans of various ages, this ingredient can be quite toxic for the canine companions at home! If your dogs intake Xylitol, their bodies start producing excess amounts of insulin. It leads to the onset of low blood sugar levels or hypoglycaemia and the results could be fatal. Xylitol consumption can also lead to liver failure in dogs (11). Even a small amount of Xylitol intake can be fatal for a dog, small or big. Ensure the Xylitol tabs or powder stays out of reach for your dog.
Now that you know that Xylitol is good for health in more ways than you can fathom, be assured when you bring home the next pack of chewing gum! Share this with others, and help them reap the benefits of chewing your favourite gum. If we missed any other health benefits of Xylitol, please share them in the comment section below!
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