Since the first sugar substitutes hit the market, Americans have gone crazy over each new product to grace our commercials and ad space. Xylitol is just one of many, but it has taken many people by storm, convincing them of its effectiveness and worth. What is Xylitol, and why is it better than other leading sweeteners that are intended to replace sugar? Is it better, or is it just marketing hype?
Xylitol, simply, is an organic compound that is classified as a “sugar alcohol”, which means that it does not ferment in the mouth, and is therefore safer when it comes to oral hygiene. It is also found naturally in fruits, berries, nuts, tree bark, vegetables and other fibrous tissue, which means that it isn’t an artificial sweetener like Equal or Splenda.
There has been quite a stir over the health and dietary benefits of Xylitol because it is just as sweet as sucrose (table sugar), but possesses only two-thirds of the calories. Without the food energy found in sugar, Xylitol does not encourage tooth decay in the mouth, and can actually bring it to a grinding halt.
According to Xylitol.org, Xylitol was first discovered by scientists in Finland, and is one of the most common substitutes for sugar in that country. It is usually derived from Birch bark because it is so widely available, and this product has become much more popular there than in other parts of the world.
But why should anyone care about Xylitol? Other than tooth decay, this product does have several health applications, ranging from osteoporosis to the treatment of general sepsis. Much of the research regarding Xylitol is still in its infancy, and we are still quite far from finding all of the far-reaching uses for it yet. However, it is considered both safe and non-habit forming, which lends to its potential.
The one major problem with Xylitol is that it can cause gastric distress when people consume too much of it in one 24-hour period. The recommended dosage for fighting tooth decay, for example, is between 5 and ten grams per day. This is equivalent to between 3 and 8 pieces of Xylitol chewing gum, but if you use more than that, you might experience loose stool and stomach upset.
However, Xylitol has been approved for patients with diabetes and hypoglycemia, which is encouraging to say the least. The important thing is that you discuss any new foods or medicines with your doctor before starting a regimen. Xylitol might be appropriate for a friend but not for you, so wait until you receive your doctor’s go-ahead.
It is also helpful to experiment in small doses with Xylitol. For example, you might start by chewing two pieces of gum per day, then increase as you discern your body’s reaction to it. If you start out by taking the maximum dosage, you won’t be able to control how your body responds.
Xylitol.org, Xylitol FAQs