Xylitol: what it is, benefits and contraindications

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Carlos Laforet Coll
@carloslaforetcoll
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Xylitol is a sugar with a sweetening power very similar to that of sucrose, but with a lower calorie content. It is extracted mainly from birch trees, but also from some types of fruit, such as strawberries and raspberries, and from wheat. As a food additive in Europe it is referred to with the number E967.



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Lo xylitol is one XNUMX/XNUMX cup sugar with a sweetening power very similar to that of sucrose, but with a lower calorie content. It is mainly extracted from birches, but also from some types of fruit, such as strawberries and raspberries, and from wheat. How food additive in Europe it is indicated by the number E967.



We know it above all as a sweetener for i chewing gum, but its uses range beyond these products and it seems that xylitol also has some health benefits. Unfortunately however like it refined sugar - normal white sugar - xylitol does not contain vitamins, minerals or other useful substances. Despite this, xylitol is presented as a healthier alternative to sucrose.

Index

What is xylitol and where to find it

Xylitol is a sweetening substance that occurs as a hybrid between a sugar molecule and an alcohol molecule. These characteristics allow it to stimulate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue. It is found in small quantities in fruits and vegetables and also our organism through the metabolism produces a minimum of it. It is mainly used in chewing gum, candies, mints and oral hygiene products.

While white sugar contains 4 Calories per gram, xylitol contains some 2,4 per gram, therefore about 40% less. Xylitol is extracted mainly from birch trees, or is obtained thanks to an industrial process that transforms vegetable fibers called xylans (polysaccharides) into xylitol. Find xylitol for sale as powdered sweetener su Internet And in the natural product shops.

Glycemic index

One of the most well-known side effects of added sugars relates to spikes in blood glucose and the quick release of insulin. Compared to sweeteners such as white sugar, xylitol has a very weak action on blood glucose and insulin. L'index glicemico of xylitol in fact is equal to 7, while that of refined sugar is 60-70. From the point of view of the glycemic index, xylitol could represent an alternative to refined sugar suitable for those at risk of diabetes and for those suffering from obesity and metabolic problems, but in this regard it is always good to consult your doctor. Some studies have been conducted that xylitol might be helpful in relieving the symptoms of diabetes, to reduce abdominal fat and to prevent weight gain.



Tooth health

According to some studies, xylitol has benefits for the teeth health and mouth. Among the bacteria responsible for plaque we find it Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium feeds on the glucose in the mouth from food, but cannot use xylitol. So replacing sugar with xylitol could help keep this bacterium at bay. Xylitol would also be able to block the metabolism of bacteria, especially as regards their ability to derive energy from glucose. In one study published in the Iranian Journal of Microbiology it was observed that xylitol helps reduce harmful bacteria present in the oral cavity by 25 to 75% while it has no effect on beneficial bacteria.

Plus xylitol improves calcium absorption at the level of the digestive system, it increases saliva production and reduces its acidity, helps prevent and reduce tooth decay, alongside inflammation of the gums.

Ear infections

Mouth, nose and ears are connected. Bacteria that live in the mouth can travel to the ears and cause infections, as is sometimes the case in children. Xylitol would be able to counteract these bacteria just like in the case of plaque. According to a study conducted in Finland, chewing xylitol gum reduces the risk of otitis.

Other benefits

I will need to investigate these aspects, but it is very likely that xylitol may be useful in stimulating the production of collagen, which prevents skin aging, and to prevent osteoporosis and the reduction of bone volume and density. It could feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut and act as a real fiber to stimulate regularity.


Toxic for dogs

The human body absorbs xylitol slowly and with little effect on insulin production. But this is not the case for dogs. For them, xylitol has the same effect as refined sugar and causes ahigh insulin production. This can cause hypoglycemia and even be fatal for our four-legged friends. To have negative effects, only 0,1 grams of xylitol is enough for each kilogram of the dog's weight. Less than a single chewing gum contains.


Controindicazioni

Generally xylitol is considered well tolerated, but some people may warn digestive problems with high consumption, for example due to intestinal fermentation. One study has estimated that the intake of large quantities of xylitol (even up to 1,5 kg per month) does not cause any side effects. Who suffers from irritable bowel syndrome should avoid xylitol.

Marta Albè

Read also:

Stevia: the natural sweetener alternative to zero-calorie sugar

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