Xylitol (chemical: pentane pentene) belongs to the group of sugar alcohols, which include, for example, sorbitol or lactitol. It is mainly used in the food industry as a sugar substitute. Here, the substance is particularly popular because it is said to have an anti-cariogenic effect.
Xylitol, in contrast to ordinary table sugar (sucrose), has no damaging effect on our teeth, but should even have a positive effect on our dental health.
Xylitol is similar in taste to normal household sugar and has almost the same sweetness. When consumed, it provides a cooling effect on the tongue, as it withdraws heat from contact with saliva.
Similar to sorbitol, xylitol is lower in calories than normal table sugar. While one gram of sucrose contains about 4 calories, xylitol consumes only 2.4 calories per gram. Because the sugar substitute in the body can be metabolized with less insulin than sucrose, it is often used in products for diabetics.
Xylitol inhibits the development of tooth decay
In Finland, the caries-reducing effects of xylitol were discovered in the 1970s. In several studies, a clear reduction of caries was proven by taking. This effect is probably due to the fact that the bacteria responsible for the development of caries, xylitol can not metabolize and therefore die.
In addition, the production of saliva is to be stimulated by xylitol and the remineralization of the tooth substance promoted. The use of the teeth should also be smoother - making it harder for proteins to attach to the tooth surface. In addition, the regular use of the sugar substitute should also make it easier to remove plaque and tartar.
For optimal dental care is supposed to be taken a xylitol amount between five and ten grams per day. This amount can be absorbed, for example, over powders, candies or chewing gum.
Side effects of xylitol
Whether xylitol can have harmful side effects is not yet known. For allegations that xylitol is carcinogenic, there is so far no evidence.
When ingested, however, it should be noted that xylitol may have a laxative effect at a dose exceeding 0.5 grams per kilogram of body weight.
In contrast to sorbitol, however, the organism gets used to a higher amount of xylitol over time: In the case of regular intake, the laxative effect no longer occurs in the long term. Nevertheless, foods containing more than 10% of the sugar substitute must be labeled with the words 'may be laxative when consumed excessively'.
Even though xylitol is regarded as harmless to humans, animal experiments have revealed serious side effects. For example, in dogs, there was a marked drop in blood sugar levels, severe liver damage and coagulation disorders.
Natural sources of xylitol are various fruits and vegetables. This is the case in cauliflower, strawberries, raspberries and plums, for example. Since the sugar substitute is also present in the bark of the birch in larger quantities, it is also referred to as birch sugar.
Xylitol is also produced in our body - so the sugar alcohol is not a foreign substance. It is produced by the body during the breakdown of carbohydrates.
The industrial extraction takes place today mainly from harvested corncobs. Since the extraction is expensive, the sugar substitute is significantly more expensive than ordinary table sugar. You can buy xylitol in the form of powder or as part of chewing gum, lozenges, oral sprays or toothpaste.
Xylitol is becoming more and more popular in the kitchen for cooking and baking, as it replaces sugar almost equally, but only half the calories. Meanwhile, there are many products, such as chocolate, to buy, in which it is used instead of sucrose for sweetening. In food, the additive xylitol is marked with the number E967.
The sugar substitute is also used in chewing gum and sweets for dental care. One should always be careful to only buy products that have been sweetened only with xylitol and not with other sugar substitutes. However, this is often not the case with chewing gum.