Oh How Sweet It Is… Xylitol – Nature’s Dentist
With all the recent press about the dangers of certain sugar substitutes, Xylitol is now presenting a welcome relief. It is not only healthy (good for the teeth and low-glycemic) but tastes and looks identical to normal sugar except for a slight cooling effect on the tongue (there is absolutely no bitter after taste as there is with some sugar substitutes).
So what is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a white crystalline sweetener that occurs naturally in berries, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms lettuce, hardwoods, corn cobs, and birch trees.
In fact, in Finland it is known as “birch sugar”, because the principal raw ingredient in its manufacture is xylan or wood fiber. It is also found naturally in our bodies and is widely distributed throughout nature in small amounts.
It has been noted that about one cup of raspberries contains less than one gram of xylitol.
Is Xylitol Safe?
Xylitol has been shown to be completely non-toxic and safe for human consumption (unlike many of the other sweeteners out there like Sweet-n-Low, Equal, and Splenda).
It is also interesting to note that our bodies produce up to 15 grams of xylitol from other food sources using established energy pathways. Which makes Xylitol a normal part of everyday metabolism.
Does Xylitol have any known benefits?
In short… Yes.
Recently… Xylitol has become very popular as a sugar substitute because it has been shown to help reduce tooth decay and even help reverse it when it is already present. It can do this because of its molecular structure, which makes it unusable by the mouth bacteria that cause dental caries and plaque cannot grow with it.
Also, as saliva that contains Xylitol is alkaline (the pH is above 7), the calcium and phosphate salts in our saliva can start to naturally re-mineralize our tooth enamel in the places that they are lacking, which has a hardening effect on decay-softened enamel. It can be used as a healthy sugar substitute, or just taken orally and swished around the mouth for good dental care.
One of the added benefits of Xylitol is the fact that it is both a low-glycemic sweetener and alkalizing to the body, making it an ideal sugar substitute for those on weight-loss diets and for those wanting optimum health without the “sugar-blues”. (Xylitol, however, is not a low or no calorie product — each teaspoon or 4g contains 9.6 calories as opposed to normal sugar’s 15.8 calories for the equivalent weight.) As it is low glycemic, it has become popular as a sweetener for diabetics and those interested in Syndrome X.
Another benefit for children is that if they use Xylitol, he or she may get fewer ear infections. Children should use the gum or syrup every day, whether they are ill or not.A recent exciting study has shown that osteoporosis may be another condition for which Xylitol may be of help. In studies in Finland in 1994, Xylitol was shown to be able to maintain bone density in rats that had their ovaries surgically removed. Without ovaries, estrogen levels in these rats plummeted – and so did the bone density in the rats that were not given Xylitol.
However, in ovary removed rats, which had been given Xylitol, bone density actually increased. This early study strongly indicated that Xylitol might help maintain bone density in normally aging intact (non sugar given) animals.
A recent report by the same team of Finnish scientists evaluated the effect of Xylitol on bone volume and bone mineral content in aged male rats, reinforcing their earlier study on female animals.
Studies show that 4 to 12 grams of xylitol per day are very effective. It’s easy to keep track of your xylitol intake. The “all xylitol” mints and gums contain about one gram of xylitol in each piece. You could begin with as little as one piece four times a day for a total of four grams. It is not necessary to use more than 15 grams per day as higher intakes yield diminishing dental benefits.
I personally pour a little into my hand and swish it around for awhile as well as add it to some of my homemade teas. It tastes great! I also only chew Xylitol gum as it is one of the only gums that actually can help your teeth and not damage them. And knowing that it has all of these added benefits, it can easily satisfy any sweet tooth cravings you may have.
To Your Health and Well-Being,