How Xylitol Affects The Body
Xylitol is a sugar substitute that has been used in many foods for many years. It can also be found naturally in a plethora of other foods. But what exactly is it and what does it do for the body? Continue reading to learn more about the health benefits of xylitol on the body.
What Is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. These are a hybrid of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules. Despite the name, “sugar alcohol” they do not cause intoxication. Xylitol can be found naturally in certain fruits and vegetables and the body also makes small amounts of xylitol through normal metabolism. This makes xylitol a great substitute for sugar in your diet. In fact, it has 40% fewer calories than your average, everyday table sugar.
As previously mentioned, xylitol is found in certain fruits and vegetables and can be produced in the body through metabolism. There are many other sources you can you get it from. Try these foods next time you want to add xylitol to your diet.
- Chewing gum
- Peanut butter
- Sugar-free candy
- Fruit drinks
Benefits of Xylitol
Low Glycemic Index
One major negative effect of added sugar is that it has the ability to spike blood sugar and insulin levels. However, a review published in 2011 showed that xylitol contains zero fructose and has minor effects on blood sugar and insulin. This means that these harmful effects of sugar do not apply to xylitol.
In addition, xylitol has a glycemic index (how quickly a food raises blood sugar) of 7. On the other hand, regular sugar has a glycemic index of around 60-70. As previously mentioned, xylitol also has around 40% fewer calories than regular sugar. Both of these make xylitol a great alternative to sugar for people who are diabetic or even are just trying to lose a few pounds.
Along with having a low glycemic index, xylitol can also improve your dental health. This is due to one of the leading causes of tooth decay being a bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This bacteria is mostly responsible for the plaque on your teeth. The bacteria feed on the glucose that you get from the food you eat throughout the day. If you replace the sugar that you eat with a sweetener like xylitol, then these bacteria have no fuel available and will eventually starve to death. This could be the reason that many dentists recommend a chewing gum that is sweetened with xylitol. One study backs this up by showing that xylitol-sweetened chewing gum reduced levels of harmful bacteria by 27-75% while the friendly bacteria levels stayed the same.
In addition to dental health and a low glycemic index, xylitol also has the ability to reduce ear infections. This is because the bacteria that live in your mouth can end up causing ear infections. One study backs this up by showing that xylitol can starve this bacteria the same way it does with the plaque producing bacteria mentioned above. Another study conducted back in 1996 showed that in children, daily usage of xylitol-sweetened chewing gum could reduce the rate of infection by up to 40%.
Side Effects Of Xylitol
Xylitol is generally safe, however, for some people it can cause digestive issues like bloating or diarrhea. Fortunately, these cases are somewhat rare unless you have ingested an excessive amount of xylitol.
Xylitol & Dogs
For humans, xylitol consumption is relatively safe as mentioned above. However, xylitol is incredibly toxic for dogs so it is important to keep xylitol or anything that contains it out of paws reach. Poison.org states that “When swallowed by canines, xylitol absorption is rapid. Vomiting can be seen in only 30 minutes, but full symptoms can be delayed for up to 12 hours.” It is important to get your dog to a doctor within this amount of time especially is you see some symptoms of xylitol poisoning. Some of these symptoms are:
- Difficulty walking or standing
Xylitol is a great choice as a sweetener. There are many health benefits of xylitol that can only be obtained if you get it into your diet. It is also important to always keep xylitol and any products that may contain it away from places where your dog has access to it so they do not get sick as they could potentially die.