Xylitol is a type of sweetener obtained from various fruitsand vegetables. Chemically speaking, it is an alcohol and can be found indietary supplements, chewing gum, oral hygiene products, and processed food.
It is curious to note that the human body synthesizes 4teaspoons (15 grams) of xylitol a day. The substance is considered a healthy substituteto ordinary sugar, compared to which it contains 75% less carbohydrates and 40%less calories. Furthermore, it is claimed not to have any carcinogenic properties.
With all these qualities, it is safe for pregnant and breastfeedingwomen, as well as for infants and children. Bodybuilders, people suffering from diabetes and those on adiet, favor xylitol over sugar for its inability to be easily transformed intofat. Xylitol has also found its use in dental care products, due tothe fact that mouth bacteria cannot convert it into acid. As long as alkaline-acidbalance is kept inside the mouth, cavities are less likely to appear.
In addition, xylitol is used to treat ear infections, since itcan stop the development of the bacteria causing these conditions. Small amounts of xylitol help tooth enamel absorb mineralsmore effectively. It also prevents bad breath by eliminating H.pylori bacteria, responsible for gastric ulcers and stomach cancer as well. Xylitol stimulates the activity of white blood cells againstbacteria and fights Candida albicans, an agent leading to yeast infections. The passing of Streptococcus mutans to infants is reducedby 80% in cases of breastfeeding women taking xylitol on regular basis.
Xylitol has been approved as non-toxic food additive by theFDA, but very large doses are known to cause side effects. As xylitol is an alcohol, it can cause stomach upset anddiarrhea in case it is not digested. Due to its laxative qualities, diarrhea and gas are anotheroutcome of large dose intake. Large amounts of xylitol can cause the levels of blood sugarto drop resulting in hypoglycemia. Excessive doses may lead to the rise of uric acid in the blood, which in turn leads to the formation of kidney stones. Increased levels ofblood acidity are also a possible side effect. Allergic reactions in the form of wheezing, hives, skin rashand itching, heavy breathing and swollen mouth are extremely rareside effects of xylitol use, and can occur only if xylitol was purified belowstandard.
Small amounts of xylitol found in chewing gum and sweets donot cause any side effects. If using xylitol orally (in form of lozenges, syrup orchewing gum) to prevent ear infections in pre-school children, daily dosesshould not exceed 8 to 10 grams. 7 to 20 grams of xylitol a day is enough to prevent cavitiesin children and adults.