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Getting to Know the Benefits of Sweet Xylitol with Lower Calories than Sugar

Xylitol Leaves

There are many types of sweetener that we can find in our daily life. Some are natural, but some are artificial. One of those sweeteners who may be very familiar with you is Xylitol, a sweetener that is often found in sweets. Is it safe to consume Xylitol?

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of sweetener that is often mixed into sweets, chewing gum, mint candy, and oral care products such as toothpaste. The sweetener is made from trees such as birch or from plant fibers called Xylan. Xylitol can also be bought in the form of white crystalline powder to be used as sweetener.

The sweetness of Xylitol is somewhat similar to that of sugar. But interestingly, the number of calories from Xylitol is 40% lower than sugar. Every one gram of sugar gives 4 calories, another with one gram Xylitol which is “only” 2.4 calories. Xylitol is a low calorie sweetener because it does not contain proteins, vitamins, nor minerals.

Xylitol is a sweetener belonging to the alcohol Sugar group. That is, the chemical structure of Xylitol has a combination of sugar molecules with alcohol molecules. However, despite its name alcohol, Xylitol does not contain ethanol so it is not intoxicating.

Potential benefits of Xylitol for health

Xylitol has a positive reputation as it instead offers several health benefits. Some benefits of Xylitol, including:

1. Does not trigger blood sugar or insulin spikes

Unlike sugar or some other sweetener, the attractive benefits of Xylitol are the absence of effects on blood sugar or insulin spikes. Therefore, Xylitol is a fructose-free sweetener, a type of monosaccharide that can slowly trigger a spike in blood sugar.

Xylitol also has a glycemic index which tends to be low, i.e. 7. This glycemic score is very far compared to cane sugar which has a glycemic index of 60-70. Glycemic index is useful to know how quickly a meal can raise blood sugar levels.

For its benefits that do not affect blood sugar, Xylitol is reported to be an alternative to diabetics, prediabetes, and other metabolic disorders. The low Calories can also be beneficial for people with obesity.

2. Maintain oral and dental health

Xylitol is often found in oral care products as it is reportedly able to prevent perforated teeth. Unlike ordinary sugars, Xylitol cannot be “eaten” by bacteria in the mouth — such as Streptococcus mutans bacteria. After absorbing Xylitol, the energy generating attribute of this bacterium will be clogged thereby reducing the life duration of the bacteria.

With its effect on the bacteria in the oral cavity, Xylitol that we consume from chewing gum or other foods helps reduce bacterial populations and prevent cavities.

A study published in the Iranian Journal of Microbiology reported, Xylitol in chewing gum reduced the bad bacteria in the mouth to 27-75%. Interestingly, this sweetener does not adversely affect the good bacteria in the oral cavity.

3. Lower the risk of ear infections

Bacteria in the mouth not only cause problems in the mouth alone. The bacteria also often trigger infections in the ears often experienced by children. Xylitol is reportedly also inhibiting bacteria triggering infections in the ears, as these sweeteners prevent infection in the mouth.

4. Inhibit the fungus Candida albicans

In addition to inhibiting bacterial growth, Xylitol is also able to banish the fungus Candida albicans, a fungus trigger candidiasis infection. Xylitol is able to lower the ability of this mushroom to stick to the surface of objects.

Risks and side effects of Xylitol

As a sweetener, Xylitol tends to be safe to consume if not excessive. If it is too excessive, some people may experience indigestion.

Alcoholic sugar like Xylitol can draw water towards the intestines. Xylitol can also be fermented by bacteria in the intestines. Both of these effects can cause flatulence, stomach-toothed, and diarrhea. Fortunately, if you consume Xylitol with a gradual increase, the body will be able to adjust.

Research also mentions that Xylitol is safe to consume in the long term. In a study, respondents who consumed an average of 1.5 kg of Xylitol in a month — with a per-day intake of 200-400 grams a day, did not experience any negative side effects in their bodies.

People with Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are advised to discuss with the doctor first before consuming Xylitol sweetener. Similarly, individuals who have intolerance to FODMAP, namely intolerance to the type of short-chain carbohydrates such as fructose or lactose.

Conclusion

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sweetener and reportedly has no effect on blood sugar. If you are a diabetic or pradiabetes patient, you can discuss the use of Xylitol as a daily sweetener.
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