What is Xylitol anyway?
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Although the word ""alcohol"" is part of the name, it does not refer to the same alcohol you can get drunk from. Xylitol is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables and is therefore considered natural. But the Xylitol as we know it, is mostly made from the juice of the birch tree or like the xylitol from FIRST, from the remains of corn cobs. It is a common ingredient in sugar-free gum, candy, peppermints, and oral care products such as toothpaste.
Xylitol in FIRST
The amount of xylitol in FIRST is the largest compared to any other gum. This is not entirely without reason. First, xylitol neutralizes the bitter taste of caffeine in the ""liquid center fill"" of FIRST. Second, xylitol provides all kinds of health benefits. Xylitol has similar sweetness to regular sugar but contains 40% fewer calories. Since xylitol is a refined sweetener, it contains no vitamins, minerals, or proteins. In this sense, it provides only 'empty' calories.
One of the negative effects of added sugar is that it raises blood sugar and insulin levels. Because of its high fructose content, it can also lead to insulin resistance and multiple metabolic problems when consumed in excess. Xylitol, however, contains zero fructose and has negligible effects on blood sugar and insulin levels.
Thus, none of the adverse effects of sugar apply to xylitol. Xylitol's glycemic index (GI) - a measure of how quickly a food raises blood sugar - is only 7, while normal sugars are 60 to 70. It can also be considered a weight-loss-friendly sweetener because it contains 40% fewer calories than sugar. For people with diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, or other metabolic problems, xylitol is an excellent alternative to sugar. Studies show that xylitol can improve the symptoms of diabetes , belly fat can reduce fat and even prevent weight gain during a fattening diet.
Xylitol is good for your teeth
Many dentists recommend xylitol chewing gum. In Finland, children are given xylitol candies because it is good for their teeth. Studies have found that xylitol improves dental health and helps to prevent tooth decay.
One of the main risk for tooth decay is an oral bacteria called: Streptococcus mutans. This is the bacteria responsible for plaque. Although some plaque is normal, excess plaque encourages your immune system to attack the bacteria in it. This can lead to serious gum disease. These oral bacteria feed on glucose from food, but they cannot use xylitol. Replacing sugar with xylitol reduces the available fuel for the harmful bacteria. Although these bacteria cannot use xylitol as fuel, they still absorb it. After absorbing xylitol, they are unable to absorb glucose, which means their energy-producing pathway is clogged and eventually dies.
In other words, when you chew gum with xylitol or use it as a sweetener, the harmful bacteria in your mouth starve and eventually die. Studies show that adding xylitol to your diet, and thus replacing sugar, can reduce tooth decay by 30% to 85%. Because inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases, reducing plaque and gum disease can also benefit the rest of your body.
Xylitol reduces ear and fungal infections
Your mouth, nose, and ears are all connected. Therefore, bacteria living in the mouth can cause ear infections. This is a common problem for children.
It turns out that xylitol can starve some of these bacteria in the same way it starves plaque-producing bacteria. A study of children with recurrent ear infections found that daily use of xylitol gum reduced their infection rate by 40%. Xylitol also fights the yeast of fungi, which can lead to candida infections. Xylitol reduces the ability of yeast to adhere to surfaces, preventing infections.
Other possible health benefits
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body and is found in large quantities in skin and connective tissue. Some studies with rats link xylitol to increased production of collagen, which may help counteract the effects of aging on your skin. Xylitol may also be protective against osteoporosis, as it leads to increased bone volume and bone mineral content in rats. Keep in mind that studies in humans are needed to actually confirm these benefits. Xylitol also feeds the friendly bacteria in your intestines, acts as a soluble fiber and improves your digestion.
Side effects and dose
Your body generally tolerates xylitol well, but some people experience digestive side effects when they consume too much. The sugar alcohols can draw water into your gut or be fermented by gut bacteria. This can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea. However, your body seems to adapt well to xylitol. If you increase the intake slowly and give your body time to adjust, you are unlikely to experience any negative effects. Long-term use of xylitol seems perfectly safe.
As a sweetener, xylitol is an excellent choice. While some sweeteners can cause health risks, studies show that xylitol actually has health benefits. If you are looking for a healthier alternative to regular sugar, try xylitol.