Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sugar replacement.
Unlike synthetically produced sugar-replacements, xylitol is a natural product harvested from a variety of different plants.
This non-sugar sweetener has been a great alternative to sugar; preventing blood sugar spikes and providing low-calorie sweet options.
But, limited research has also shown that xylitol has the potential to provide several other health benefits. Including – oral health and skin condition.
More clinical studies must be done to prove its full effects, but the future for xylitol in the health world looks promising.
What Is Xylitol And How Can It Benefit Your Health?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and non-sugar sweetener.
The substance is an natural alcohol derived from several fruits, vegetables, and trees. The most common sources of xylitol are Birchwood trees and corncobs (1).
This sugar alcohol is a common ingredient in natural oral care products. However, its frequently used as a sweetener in recipes and drinks, but also sugar-free chewing gums, candies, mints, diabetes-friendly foods.
And though it looks and taste like sugar, it cannot be metabolized by harmful bacteria. This is because xylitol cannot be processed by bacteria like sugar, it limits the production of toxins and plaques from bacteria digestion (1). Plaque, being the root cause of several diseases in the body when build-up occurs.
With access to limited food sources, pathogenic bacteria will starve and die.
Additionally, this sugar alcohol has been connected to other positive health outcomes like improving oral health and the condition of skin.
4 Benefits of Xylitol
Xylitol provides several benefits; though more studies are needed to know it’s true potential.
Many benefits are linked to its ability to help regulate blood sugar spikes and evade harmful bacteria. Unlike sugar.
The four most recognized benefits of xylitol include – having a low glycemic index, preventing other bacterial infections, improving oral health, and improve skin strength and condition.
- Has A Low Glycemic Index
Having a low glycemic index is what xylitol is most known for.
As a non-sugar sweetener, it doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. Also, it doesn’t cause spikes in insulin release (2).
This is especially important for people with diabetes or for those who are concerned about blood sugar spikes.
There are several sugar alternatives on the market, but xylitol is one of the only natural sugar alcohol options out there.
- Beneficial For Oral Health
Xylitol has shown promising results in its ability to maintain proper oral health.
And though it looks and taste like sugar, it cannot be metabolized by the bacteria of the mouth.
This sugar alternative cannot be processed by bacteria like sugar, it limits the production of plaque, which is beneficial as plaque is the root cause of several oral diseases.
Also, it reduces bacteria in the mouth as it limits their main food source, the pathogens will first stave and die (1).
- Helps Treat Ear And Yeast Infections
Similarly to the benefits of oral health, xylitol not being a food source for bacteria has made it an potentially effective treatment aid for bacterial infections.
Though it isn’t a direct treatment, xylitol has been shown to help reduce infections caused by bacteria. These include inner ear infections, yeast infections, etc.
It’s ability to lessen the effect of infections comes both from its ability to reduce plaque production – in ear infections, dental plaque builds up behind the eardrum and causes infections – and promoting bacterial starvation to reduce bacteria numbers (2).
- May Boost Collagen Production
One of the most surprising benefits of xylitol is its potential to boost collagen production.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, but is found primarily in the skin and connective tissue (1).
Increased collagen production can improve skin strength and reduce the effects of aging.
There are currently no exact intake recommendations for xylitol, but studies have suggested a rough maximum intake per day.
These studies indicate that up to 30 tablespoons (400 grams) of xylitol can be consumed per day without negative side effects (1).
Potential side effects
Xylitol is tolerated well by the general population,.
However, some may experience digestive side effects when too much is consumed or consumed too quickly.
Digestive discomfort can occur two ways when consuming too much xylitol/sugar alcohols:
- Causes excess water to be pulled into the intestine
- Excess sugar alcohols are fermented by gut bacteria
Both excess water and fermentation causes bloating and diarrhea. Fermentation of xylitol also lead to gas (1).
As far as research has shown moderate, long-term intake of xylitol is safe (1).
Seek advice from a medical professional
It is always important to seek the advice of a trusted medical professional if you experience discomfort when using a new health product.
Author: Allison Lansman, RDN, LD