Xylitol -- A Natural Sweetener and More
Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in many plants and fruits. It is similar to table sugar and many people say it tastes better than table sugar. Xylitol is produced in nature in small amounts, but can be manufactured in large amounts from xylose. Xylitol was approved for use as a food additive by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1963.
It's Actually Good For You
In addition to its advantages of being a natural sweetener and lower in calories than table sugar (40% lower), Xylitol provides significant health benefits. It has been shown in many clinical studies to prevent dental caries (cavities) and even stops or reverses tooth decay. There is also evidence that xylitol is effective in preventing or reducing ear and sinus infections. Because Xylitol is metabolized very slowly and does not raise insulin levels, its use reduces many health problems associated with high-sugar intake. Diabetics can safely use xylitol as a sweetener.
Most bacteria, including Streptococcus Mutans germs that live in the mouth and cause cavities depend on sugars with six carbon atoms such as glucose and fructose for their energy source. Xylitol has a five carbon sugar structure that is not easily accepted or digested by these bacteria and significantly slows their growth. Regular use of Xylitol reduces the oral levels of Streptococcus Mutans.
Studies Prove Benefits
Clinical studies conducted over the last 30 years have proven that Xylitol prevents tooth decay and plaque formation. For example, in studies of children who chewed gum daily containing Xylitol, compared to those who did not, cavities not only did not increase, but levels were actually reduced over time of the study.
Why You Are Just Now Hearing About Xylitol
Xylitol was developed commercially in Finland in response to sugar shortages in WWll. Finland was among the first countries to study the health benefits of Xylitol and make it available in chewing gum. Currently, more than 35 countries have approved the use of Xylitol in foods, pharmaceutical and oral hygiene products. While Xylitol has been up to 20 times more expensive than sugar and other sweeteners, increased demand is bringing down the price and also making it more readily available.