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Xylitol – the low down

Xylitol is a sweetener that is found in plants and is used as a sugar substitute. It has fewer calories than sugar but looks and tastes it.  Xylitol is not only used in foods, but also in oral products, medicines as well as cosmetics.

Xylitol – the low down

Xylitol occurs naturally in the fibres of certain fruits and vegetables such as:

  • Raspberries;
  • Strawberries;
  • Yellow plums;
  • Lettuce;
  • Cauliflower;
  • Corn.

For commercial uses, it is extracted from the bark of birch trees.  It is a common ingredient found in many sugar free gums, sweets, diabetic friendly foods and oral care products.

Xylitol is a substance that is categorised in the area of sugar alcohol.  This means that it is a mixture of a sugar molecule and alcohol molecule.  Their structure gives them the ability to stimulate the sweet taste bud receptors on your tongue.

The nutrition of xylitol

  • Xylitol is considered very safe for those with diabetes.  This is because the sugar alcohols found in xylitol don’t have much of an impact on blood sugar levels;
  • There are only trace amounts of vitamins and minerals found in xylitol;
  • Research shows that xylitol aids in the absorption of calcium in your body;1
  • Research suggests that xylitol chewing gum consumption can maintain healthy ecology of the oral cavity.2

Xylitol and side effects

  • Although xylitol is well tolerated, some people may experience tummy upset if they have to much;
  • The sugar alcohols can pull water into the intestines causing diarrhoea;
  • The sugar alcohols can also get fermented by the gut bacteria which may cause gas and bloating.

The take home message

If sugar is not your first choice, xylitol is an excellent choice when it comes to a sweetener.   Studies show that xylitol will not do you harm.
Like other sugar alcohols, xylitol can cause diarrhoea, bloating and gas at high doses.



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