Facts on the Sugar Alternative Xylitol

Overview

Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in fruits and vegetables. Xylitol is being lauded for its ability to fight dental problems and reduce weight. Diabetics can benefit from this low-calorie ingredient, because xylitol is absorbed slowly and prevents a sharp rise in blood sugar or insulin levels when eaten.

History

Emil Fischer (1852 to 1919), a German chemist, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1902 for his investigation of sugar and purine substances; he discovered xylitol in 1891. Since the 1960s, xylitol has been approved as a sweetener in human foods. Today xylitol is used in over 35 countries including the United States as an ingredient in foods and other products like toothpaste.

Benefits

There are several benefits to using xylitol as a sweetener and to eating products sweetened with xylitol. Most of these benefits are related to improved dental care, such as decreases in plaque formation and in the development of dental caries. In addition, xylitol promotes salivation, which helps to repair damaged tooth enamel. Xylitol is an excellent sweetener for weight watchers since it provides approximately 2.4 calories per gram, which is one third fewer calories than sugar.

Studies

According to CalorieControl.com, in 1986, The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology reported to the United States Food and Drug Administration that the use of xylitol in food for humans is safe. The report also stated that xylitol is an approved food additive for foods for special dietary uses.

Production of Xylitol

Xylitol is an odorless, sweet-tasting, white crystalline powder. This commercially produced sweetener is made from hardwood trees like birch and fibrous vegetation. Foods and other products containing xylitol include chewing gum, hard candy and gum drops. Toothpaste, mouthwash and throat lozenges also contain xylitol. Xylitol is also used in foods for special dietary purposes such as for diabetics.

Effects of Xylitol on Dogs

According to the Animal Poison Control Center of American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (APCCASPCA), there has been an increase in the number of dogs afflicted with xylitol poisoning. Since August 2006 they have managed 114 cases. The signs of xylitol poisoning in dogs are a sudden drop in blood sugar causing depression, loss of coordination and seizures. Pet owners should seek immediate veterinary treatment if they observe these symptoms in their dogs.

About this Author

Norma Chew is a retired registered nurse who has been a freelance writer since 1978. Chew's articles have appeared in the Journal of the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN), "Point of View Magazine" and "Today's OR Nurse." Chew has a master's degree in health care administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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