Xylitol is a sugar-like substance that is used as a sweetener for beverages, chewing gum and candies that do not contain sugar.

It has 40% fewer calories than sugar and has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of cavities by between 30% and 85%.

In the following article we will talk about its benefits, various uses and possible side effects for the health of its consumers.

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a polyalcohol or sugar alcohol , a chemical compound formed by mixing a sugar molecule with an alcohol molecule. It is characterized by a sweet taste very similar to that of sugar , but with the advantage of having a reduced amount of calories.

Note: Specifically, xylitol contains 40% fewer calories than conventional sugar. Xylitol can be extracted from birch or from a plant fiber called xylan , and although it is technically a carbohydrate (sugar), it does not alter blood glucose .

For these reasons, many food products use it as a sugar substitute sweetener to market their “light” versions, since it is low in calories and carbohydrates.

Therefore, its presence is frequent in the ingredient lists of many chewing gums, candies, sweets and even toothpastes.

What benefits does xylitol have?

Xylitol is a substance that, in addition to favoring diabetic diets and people , confers a variety of benefits to the health of consumers. They will be mentioned and explained below for your recognition and understanding.

1. Prevents cavities

Dental caries is a disease caused by bacteria that inhabit the mouth. It consists of the destruction of the teeth by drilling them and can cause the fall of the dental pieces.

According to several studies, chewing gum with xylitol can help prevent and treat this ailment that already affects about 5 billion people. The principle of action of xylitol against cavities is as follows: (1)

  • It inhibits bacterial growth , mainly of the Streptococcus mutans bacterium, in saliva and biofilm.
  • Improves salivary flow.
  • Avoid inflammation of the gums .
  • Reduces the adherent effect of microorganisms.
  • Prevents demineralization of tooth enamel by reducing acid production.

Oral bacteria feed on food debris that remains between our teeth, especially glucose. However, with xylitol something different happens : the bacteria ingest it, but they cannot use it to produce the energy that allows them to live .

In other words, xylitol collapses the bacteria preventing them from absorbing glucose and this ends up causing their death. (two)

To highlight: Various scientific investigations have revealed that the consumption of chewing gum with xylitol can reduce malignant bacteria between 30 and 80% and cavities between 30 and 85%. (3)

2. It is perfect for diabetics

Xylitol does not contain fructose , so it does not negatively influence blood glucose and insulin levels. (4)

To highlight: It does not produce glucose and insulin spikes, does not contribute to insulin resistance and does not increase the risk of metabolic diseases.

In this way, it can be stated with complete confidence that xylitol is a 100% safe substance for people with diabetes .

Likewise, it is important to highlight the great difference in glycemic index (speed with which foods cause spikes in glucose) that exists between xylitol and conventional sugar :

  • Xylitol: 7 .
  • Conventional sugar: 60-70 .

Note: Some studies in rats have shown promising results about the efficacy of xylitol as a treatment for improving diabetes or reducing abdominal fat. (5)

3. Prevents otitis in children

Otitis is an inflammation of the ear caused by an infection with the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae . It is a very common condition in children of school age and lactation that causes severe pain, fever and hearing disorders.

Xylitol inhibits bacterial growth through a mechanism similar to the one explained above in the case of caries. It collapses the bacteria preventing them from absorbing glucose and this ends up causing their death. (6)

To highlight: According to experts, 5 daily doses of 8-10 g of xylitol in the form of chewing gum or syrup can reduce cases of acute otitis media in children by up to 40 %. (7)

4. Delays skin aging

Collagen is a type of protein that our body produces in large quantities and is essential for the resistance, elasticity and regeneration of tissues .

Note: It is found in all the tissues in which it serves as a support frame , mainly in the skin and bones, and its weakening over the years is one of the causes of the appearance of wrinkles.

There is some evidence from scientific studies conducted on rats that xylitol increases collagen production and thus helps delay the appearance of wrinkles and loss of skin elasticity. (8)

5. Protects against osteoporosis

Osteoporosis , a widespread disease in Western countries, is characterized by the deterioration of bone tissue and is very common in older women.

According to some studies carried out in rats , the use of xylitol can increase bone volume and bone mineral content , which translates into a lower risk of developing osteoporosis. (9)

6. Improves intestinal flora

When consuming xylitol, it reaches the small intestine intact as if it were fiber . The gastric enzymes present in the stomach cannot metabolize it and, in this way, it manages to reach the small intestine where the intestinal bacteria partially break it down. (10)

To highlight: It serves as food for the benign flora of the intestine, a positive aspect for our digestive health.

How is xylitol used?

Its application has a wide variety, being possible to use it as a substitute in food products, desserts and recipes, even in bread because it is a sugar that does not ferment.

It is also recommended for making products such as pastes and mouthwashes, as well as pharmaceutical products, becoming ideal for users who cannot ingest any other type of sugar.

What side effects does xylitol have?

In general, xylitol does not pose a health risk and is tolerated by most people very well. However, it can present some adverse effects when ingested in large quantities , but these stop when its use is discontinued :

  • Diarrhea.
  • Gases.
  • Abdominal distension (swelling).

Be cautious with its consumption, take it in moderate and progressive amounts and surely your body will not experience any negative effects.

Note: Avoid xylitol if you have irritable bowel syndrome or are intolerant of non-digestible carbohydrates (FODMAPs).

Key Findings

  • Xylitol is a sweetener used in products that usually contain sugar, seeking to reduce the calories it provides and replace it for people who cannot consume it.
  • It does not ferment, so it does not allow the appearance of bacteria that favor the appearance of cavities. Xylitol should not be consumed in high amounts as it can lead to a laxative effect.
  • The use of this sweetener allows certain benefits in the body due to its nature and its active components.
  • It is a substance that allows the elaboration of products that would be considered “light” in the market due to the users to whom they are directed.

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