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Xylitol, a naturally-occurring sugar alcohol found in many fruits and vegetables like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cauliflower, has been touted as a healthy alternative to table sugar. When the body digests xylitol, it breaks down into two molecules: D-xylitol, which gives you your sweet tooth satisfaction but not calories or fat; then there’s L-xylitol that kicks up insulin production.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that is made from birch trees. It has been used for many years as a sweetener in chewing gum and sugar-free candies. Xylitol has also been found to have some health benefits, such as helping with insulin resistance and lowering blood glucose levels. However, xylitol can cause side effects like diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, and bloating.
If you check food labels as part of your shopping experience, you may have come across the enigmatic component xylitol. What exactly is xylitol, and is it beneficial to your health?
Even though manufacturers claim it’s “all-natural,” few people believe it’s a healthy substance, particularly when ingested in high quantities. Unfortunately, “natural” does not necessarily imply “healthy” or “non-toxic.”
To make matters worse, xylitol reports on the Internet have been mixed since the study hasn’t determined whether it’s inherently harmful or good. For example, xylitol has both oral and dental health advantages, but it may also cause stomach difficulties like diarrhea.
What Is Xylitol?
Because it has a molecular structure comparable to both sugars and alcohol, xylitol is referred to as a “sugar alcohol.” However, it is neither of these in the traditional sense. It is, in reality, a form of fiber-rich low-digestible carbohydrate.
What is the source of xylitol? It’s crystalline alcohol derived from xylose, a crystalline aldose sugar that our gut microbes can’t break down.
It’s typically made in a lab from xylose. However, it may also be found in tiny amounts in various fruits and vegetables, the birch tree’s bark, and the xylan plant (like plums, strawberries, cauliflower, and pumpkin).
Is xylitol calorie-free? It has a sweet flavor, which is why it’s used as a sugar replacement, but it’s free of cane/table sugar and has fewer calories than typical sweeteners.
It has roughly 40% fewer calories than ordinary sugar, with 10 calories per teaspoon (sugar provides about 16 per teaspoon).
Xylitol may be found in a variety of goods, including:
- mints and sugar-free chewing gum
- an ice cream cone
- slurping hard candies
- desserts/baked goods
- syrups for use on tables
- jellies and jams
- vitamin supplements with cough syrup
- butter made from nuts
- Sugar replacements (powder/granulated)
- certain nasal sprays and supplements
- Mouthwashes and toothpaste
The vitamins, minerals, and other elements in food are normally absorbed into the circulation in the small intestine when they are ingested and digested. However, when chemical molecules like xylitol are eaten, the body cannot metabolize them. Therefore they pass through the GI tract relatively undamaged.
These substances may sometimes react with other foods you ingest, enzymes produced by your pancreas, or other “gastric juices,” causing difficulties. When it comes to xylitol, this usually manifests as gastrointestinal issues.
Is this a genuinely “natural” product? Natural sources of xylose, not xylitol, include the birch tree’s bark and some fruits.
However, just because something is “natural” does not guarantee healthy. For example, research dating back to the 1950s has shown that:
- Animals with just one stomach are unable to metabolize xylose adequately.
- People who consume xylose-containing meals may develop gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
- According to a liver examination, xylose is stored in the body.
In a 1952 publication published in the Journal of Nutrition, the following remark about xylose consumption was made:
It is judged inadvisable to risk the inclusion of xylose un meals at any level of consumption for lengthy periods pending more positive trial findings at lower levels of intake.
Benefits to Your Health
1. It has the potential to improve dental health.
Even though consuming this ingredient may cause digestive problems, one potential xylitol benefit appears to be its ability to improve oral health.
Most health care experts and dentists seem to believe this. Because of its stated potential to prevent cavities, the dentistry community is one of the most vocal supporters of xylitol.
“The substitution of sucrose with sorbitol and xylitol may dramatically reduce the prevalence of dental caries,” according to research published in the Journal of Dental Education.
Because xylitol, unlike other sugars, cannot be digested by plaque bacteria, it may help prevent cavities, according to research. This means it may have benefits for the oral flora (the microbes that live in your mouth) that aren’t shared by other sweeteners.
Because oral bacteria can’t utilize xylitol as an energy source, it may help prevent tooth decay (from bacteria like Streptococcus mutants) and plaque accumulation.
Another possible advantage of xylitol is its ability to help reduce ear infections and candida yeast overgrowth for similar reasons.
Surprisingly, there are contradicting data, so we can’t conclude that xylitol is fully efficient at preventing cavities. “There is no evidence for a caries-therapeutic effect of xylitol,” according to a widely referenced review in the journal Caries Research, which makes us question which side of the coin to trust.
Overall, sugar-free xylitol chewing gum and the quantity used to sweeten toothpaste or mouthwash seem to be pretty safe, but it’s still not a good idea to eat vast amounts of this component.
2. Can be used on a low-carb/low-sugar diet.
This component does not include fructose and does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin. This implies that it will have little effect on your blood sugar and insulin levels.
Is xylitol allowed on the keto diet? Yes, it’s featured in many low-carb products, along with other low-calorie sweeteners like stevia, since it may help keep sugar consumption low.
While xylitol contains a few carbs and has a low-calorie count, it should not interfere with your ability to remain in ketosis if used in moderation.
Related: What Are the Best and Worst Keto Sweeteners?
Most individuals compare xylitol to sugar in flavor, texture, and volume.
How much xylitol does it seem safe to consume? Although no ideal dose has been established, ingesting more than 30–40 grams has detrimental health consequences.
Look for xylitol online or at health food shops if you want to purchase it. It resembles sugar in appearance and may be used in the same manner.
Xylitol has specific characteristics with other “natural” or “alternative” sweeteners, such as:
Stevia vs. Xylitol
Stevia is a plant of the Asteraceae family used as a sweetener. The Guarani people of Brazil and Paraguay have been using the stevia plant for over 1,500 years.
Is it preferable to use xylitol or stevia? While the word concerning xylitol side effects is a bit hazy, one message from the 345+ research studies citing stevia is clear: it is safe and effective.
Stevia “has a low glycemic index and, at the levels examined, is neither cytotoxic nor has an acute or chronic impact on blood sugar, making it a safe sweetener,” according to a recent critical study.
Even though stevia is a natural plant, not all stevia products on the market are made equal. In reality, what they sell as stevia in some lower-quality products isn’t even 100 percent stevia.
It’s sweetened with xylitol and contains disease-causing ingredients, including dextrose and sugar.
Most individuals tolerate stevia well, but keep in mind that it is a herb, and everyone’s body reacts differently to it. If you can’t get over its savory (nearly acidic) taste, you might try the following sugar substitutes:
- raw honey from the area
- Coconut nectar/sugar
- Maple syrup of grade B or C
Erythritol vs. Xylitol
Sugar alcohols are included in both products (also called reduced-calorie sweeteners). The critical distinction is that xylitol has fewer calories than sugar (it’s not zero-calorie like erythritol).
Xylitol has a little effect on blood sugar levels, while erythritol has none, making it a better choice for diabetes.
Some individuals prefer erythritol to xylitol since xylitol may induce diarrhea in some people, mainly when consumed in large doses.
Side Effects and Risks
Xylitol poisoning is uncommon in humans, and even when it does occur, the negative consequences of xylitol are usually minor for most individuals.
Some specialists do not suggest sugar alcohols like xylitol for human ingestion for the following reasons:
1. Issues with digestion
Because sugar alcohols draw water into your intestine and are fermented by gut bacteria, they are notorious for causing GI problems. Because the body is unable to adequately digest this material, the non-metabolized fraction ferments, allowing dangerous germs to proliferate.
This may aggravate yeast infections and lead to digestive problems such as constipation, gas/bloating, and diarrhea.
2. Problems with blood sugar
Although it has a lower effect than cane sugar, sugar alcohols have been observed to boost blood glucose levels, suggesting that people with diabetes should avoid it.
Most people may find this strange, considering many physicians advocate it as a sugar substitute because of its low glycemic index.
3. Possibility of weight gain
Weight gain is the most extensively examined negative effect of eating xylitol and other artificial sweeteners, second only to mild GI issues.
“Research raises the worry that [Alternative] sweeteners may accomplish the reverse and potentially encourage weight gain,” according to Harvard Medical School researchers. What do you mean by that? Sweeteners are a lot sweeter than table sugar – hundreds to thousands of times sweeter.”
People who regularly eat sweets get habituated to sweetness to the point that unsweetened, nutritious meals become unappealing. This might result in a less healthy diet as people reject meals that offer fullness instead of empty, harmful calories from sweetened items.
4. Other negative consequences
According to one study, ingesting a modest dose of xylitol is the key to preventing xylitol complications. When you consume moreover 40–50 grams of xylitol per day, you may experience the following adverse effects:
- borborygmi borborygmi borborygmi (rumbling sounds of gas moving through the intestine)
- bowel motions have risen
Malic acid is suitable for your energy levels, skin health, and more.
Some government officials are also concerned about the long industrialization process that makes this product. For example, most xylitol is now made by “hydrogenating” xylose, which is a chemical process that involves treating a molecule with hydrogen, generally using a catalyst like nickel.
There is no evidence that the procedure used to make xylitol is dangerous at this time, although there are recognized issues with the use of hydrogenated foods and nickel.
Is Xylitol Hazardous to Dogs?
According to VCA Animal Hospitals, xylitol may be “very hazardous to dogs.”
Why is xylitol toxic to dogs? When non-primate animals eat this chemical, it is swiftly absorbed into the circulation and causes the pancreas to produce a large quantity of insulin. This rapid release of insulin causes a rapid drop in blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) within 10–60 minutes after consuming xylitol. This hypoglycemia may be fatal if left untreated.
Other signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, reduced activity, stumbling, collapse, and seizures, in addition to hypoglycemia.
The FDA issued a warning to pet owners in July 2019 about the hazards of xylitol consumption by dogs and other pets. The FDA wanted to promote awareness among pet owners to be more cautious about exposing their dogs to xylitol-containing goods such as chewing gum, sweets, and toothpaste.
In addition to keeping xylitol-containing gum away from pets, read your pet’s food labels and never feed your table scraps to pets if they contain xylitol.
- Is xylitol safe, and what is it? Xylitol is a low-calorie sweetener that is advertised as natural. It’s a sugar alcohol, a low-digestible carbohydrate that bacteria in the digestive tract can’t entirely break down.
- People with diabetes should avoid consuming xylitol since it has been documented to elevate blood glucose levels.
- The Xylitol side effects are constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, borborygmi, colic, increased bowel motions, and weight gain.
- Some studies suggest that xylitol may help dental health, and some studies demonstrate that it can help prevent cavities.
- Overall, chewing gum containing xylitol and some xylitol in toothpaste or mouthwash seems to be pretty safe. However, it’s advisable to avoid drinking excessive quantities of other xylitol products.
- Other natural sweeteners such as stevia, raw honey, dates, coconut nectar, coconut sugar, and maple syrup may be used instead if you’re worried about the adverse effects.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are xylitol benefits?
A: Xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol that has only one-half the calories and carbs found in regular table sugar.
Is xylitol hard on the liver?
A: Xylitol is not considered to be hard on the liver sugar. It has a low glycemic index and does not cause insulin spikes.
Is xylitol inflammatory?
A: Yes. Xylitol is inflammatory and can cause various issues, such as stomach pain or diarrhea.
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The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. You must consult your doctor before acting on any content on this website, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition.
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