Xylitol is just one of a long list of sweeteners and sugar alternatives. It’s a natural sweetener that has been growing in popularity in recent years for its likeness to sugar and healthier properties.
Oliver Neely, a blog writer for the dental practice Farmington Avenue Dental Care says he likes using xyiltol in baking and has recently taken to regularly chewing xyiltol sweetened gum instead of traditional gum sweetened with sobritol, maltitol and acesulfame k for its dental and health benefits.
Xylitol is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables, as well as from birch strees. Humans even produce small quantities of it via normal metabolism.
Xylitol has a similar sweetness to sugar providing less calories and without raising blood sugar levels. It can be used 1:1 in recipes in place of sugar.
Xylitol is found in some sugar free gums, minds, and candies though it is less commonly found than many other sweeteners due to its price-point.
If you like baking xylitol can be a good ingredient to have as it can be used like for like in most recipes, producing a similar flavour and texture. Xylitol is well tolerated by the human body as a sweetener.
The GI (Glycemic Index) of xylitol is 7
The GI (Glycemic Index) of sugar is 60-70
GI is a measure of how quickly different foods raise blood sugar levels. The higher the number the greater affect.
Xylitol can improve dental health
Not only does xyiltol not break down like sugar, and contribute towards tooth decay, but it can also help to prevent it. Xylitol doesn’t provide the fuel that bacteria like Streptococcus mutans need to decay your teeth. Unlike glucose from food, xylitol is still absorbed by the bacteria but it also prevents the bacteria from consuming any glucose, the fuel they need to survive. So this bad bacteria – which is among the leading cause of tooth decay, can starve to death, and populations in your mouth can die out.
A study looking at the effects of xylitol sweetened chewing gum reduced levels of harmful bacteria by 27-75%, though friendly bacteria levels remained around the same.
Xylitol can help to increase salivary flow. One of saliva’s functions is to clean teeth and re-mineralize them, helping to keep away dental caries. Diets high in sugar and acidic foods can make this more difficult for your saliva. However xylitol helps to increase the alkalinity of your saliva so that it can do its job better. When your oral pH level is raised to more alkaline levels rather than acidic levels (above 6.5) phosphate salts and calcium can start to remineralize (harden) weakened enamel.
In-fact replacing sugar with xylitol or adding it to your diet can help to reduce cavities and tooth decay by as much as 30% - 85% according to another study.
The recommended chewing time for xylitol sweetened gum is >20 minutes.
Another study found a decrease in caries incidence among children who used xylitol daily for 12–40 months.
Safety warning – Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs
It is important to note that xylitol is very bad for dogs, negatively affecting the liver, and in high quantities potentially causing liver failure and hypoglycemia. If you use xylitol or have xylitol containing products its best to keep it well away from any dogs.
Why is Xylitol not used more?
Xylitol is not used more often because it is a little more costly than many other sweeteners, and because it can cause digestive complaints in some people. Typically this happens in higher doses, however, so it works out well for sweetened gum. If you’re doing occasional baking with xylitol and not consuming it all day every day, you’re less likely to experience any problems.