You may have heard references to Xylitol. Is this just another fad item, or is it a product that’s actually good for you? Here, we give you the scientific background on this sugar substitute.
What is Xylitol and Where is it Used?
Xylitol is a natural sugar found in some fruits and vegetables and is actually created by our bodies as they break down carbohydrates. It can also be manufactured from wheat or trees.
Xylitol is sweet, but it has 40% less calories than regular sugar. Because it’s a natural sweetener with low calories, it’s used in many foods (e.g., honey, jam/jelly, yogurt, sugar-free candies, and gum), as well as many everyday oral health products like toothpaste and mouthwash.
Is Xylitol Healthy?
Like most substances, Xylitol is good in moderation. While there are many benefits to Xylitol, taking too much in too short a time can have unwanted side effects.
Xylitol Health Benefits
Xylitol doesn’t require insulin to be metabolized, and it doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. For both these reasons, it’s a safe sugar substitute for diets of people with diabetes. It’s also good for those trying to lose weight due to its lower caloric value than sugar.
Xylitol also has broader health benefits. It makes neti pots and nasal sprays more effective at preventing ear infections in children, sinus infections in adults, and asthma and allergies. It may also help bodies clear away allergens, asthmatic triggers, and harmful bacteria, and it has some antioxidant properties.
Overall, Xylitol is inexpensive, abundant, and safe, so it’s used pretty widely.
Xylitol Side Effects
Don’t start filling your cart with sugar-free gum just yet. Xylitol can work as a laxative, and your body doesn’t fully process it; this means it can give you gas, bloating, or even diarrhea when taken too much.
A safe amount of use is between 20 and 70 milligrams each day (for perspective, one piece of sugar-free gum has about 100mg). Tolerances vary between individuals, though, so pay attention to your body.
Xylitol is also toxic to dogs, so if you have any products that contain it, keep them stored in a location your pets cannot get to.
Is Xylitol Good for Teeth?
Our favorite Xylitol benefit is that it helps reduce tooth decay.
Take chewing gum, for instance. We’ve discussed the effects of chewing gum on oral health before. As we noted then, regular gum has sugar, which increases bacterial activity, and this leads to more cavity-causing acids. However, Xylitol (a common ingredient in sugar-free gum) can inhibit and even reduce that bacteria.
While Xylitol can help prevent some dental health issues, Dakota Dental knows it’s just part of a bigger picture. Brushing and flossing are still important, as are regular checkups.
If you have any questions about Xylitol or are looking for other ways to take care of your teeth, ask Dakota Dental. We love answering your questions! Or request an appointment to speak with one of our staff in person.