What is Xylitol and what are the benefits?

By Andy Paterson

What is Xylitol and what are the benefits?

First, the short version: Xylitol is one of the so-called Nutritive sweeteners which contain far fewer kilojoules than sugar. They're difficult to digest, so impact blood sugar less than normal sugar. Also, they don't react with oral bacteria to form plaque and cavities, so they're more tooth-friendly than sugar. It’s been shown to help with Dry Mouth and also in promoting a healthy gut when combined with Probiotics.

Now grab a cuppa… here’s the detail

Let’s start with the average Australian’s intake of sugar

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that free sugars (in Australia, we call them 'added sugars') make up no more than 10% of your total daily energy intake. That’s about 13 teaspoons for an average adult consuming 8700kJ per day. However, the average Aussie actually eats more than this and teenage boys average 22 teaspoons per day. As you know, sugar is also linked to a range of health issues: obesity, tooth cavities, type 2 diabetes and more..

 

Xylitol is a natural substitute for Sugar

Xylitol, a naturally occurring substance, is a white crystalline carbohydrate known to health practitioners for over a century. More recently it has been widely studied for its effect on tooth cavities. It is found naturally in fruit, vegetables, and berries and also in xylan-rich plant materials such as birch and beechwood. 

Since a study conducted in Finland evaluating the effectiveness of xylitol on dental plaque reduction, xylitol has been widely researched and globally accepted as a natural sweetener. Currently, more than 35 countries including the US, (US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) and Australia ( Therapeutic Goods Administration, and Food Standards Australia), have approved the use of xylitol in foods, pharmaceuticals, oral health products and confectioneries.

 

Xylitol and your teeth

Tooth cavities have been called the most chronic disease affecting mankind today.  Non-nutritive sweeteners have gained popularity as they are sweeter and are required in substantially lesser quantities. Xylitol, a five-carbon sugar polyol, has been found to be promising in reducing tooth cavities and also reversing the process of early cavities.

 

So how do the lollies fight tooth decay?

Well, if you want the scientific answer, Xylitol reduces the levels of something called mutans streptococci (MS) in plaque and saliva by disrupting their energy production processes. Basically, it makes it harder for offending microorganisms to stick to the teeth surface and also reduces their acid production potential. 

Xylitol promotes mineralization by increasing the salivary flow when used as chewing gum or large xylitol pastille. The uniqueness of xylitol is that it is practically nonfermentable by oral bacteria. Also, there is a decrease in levels of MS, as well as the amount of plaque, when there is habitual consumption of xylitol.

 

Xylitol and Probiotics

Xylitol when combined with probiotics has been proved to beneficially influence the gut microflora. Probiotics like L. reuteri and L. rhamnosus GG are very effective in decreasing the counts of these oral pathogens and benefit from the presence of xylitol in them.

 

What happens if I eat too many lollies with Xylitol?

Hmm… you’ve probably heard that too much of anything is bad for you? Well, our yummy sweets are no different. The recommended dose for tooth cavity prevention is 6–10 grams per day (g/d).  At high dosages though, xylitol can cause diarrhoea in children at 45 g/d and 100 g/d in adults. The amount tolerated varies with individual susceptibility and body weight. Most adults can tolerate 40 g/d.

 

Finally, a WARNING for dog owners

If you are a dog owner, you will be well versed in the dangers of leaving chocolate lying around. Similarly, RSPCA Australia warns on its website that while safe for human consumption, Xylitol is differently metabolised by dogs.

After xylitol ingestion, dogs can become acutely hypoglycaemic (develop low blood sugar) leading to seizures and death, if not treated immediately.

"In some dogs, xylitol consumption causes liver failure and clotting problems, also carrying a poor prognosis."

Accordingly, Daz & Andy recommend vigilance and care in regards to your Daz & Andy lollies if you have a dog in the house. Keep your lollies (and your chocolate!) well out of reach of your canine friends!



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