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What is Xylitol

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a sweet-tasting naturally occurring sweetener which is low in calories and dentally friendly. Xylitol was first discovered by German chemist, Emil Fischer in 1891 and has been used as a sweetener in food since the 1960s. Xylitol is a substance similar in appearance and texture to sugar. It is a white crystalline powder that is odorless, with a pleasant sweet taste similar to sugar (sucrose). Xylitol has been used as a food additive for the last 50 years and has one-third fewer calories than everyday sugar. Xylitol is more expensive to produce so less expensive sweeteners like Sorbitol and other sugars are used more frequently. It dissolves quickly, has no unpleasant aftertaste and produces a cooling sensation in the mouth.

Xylitol occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables but at a level of less than 1% and is even produced by the human body during the normal metabolism of glucose. Xylitol is produced commercially from plants such as birch and other hard wood trees and fibrous vegetation. The majority is produced in the United States, Finland and China.

Due to its role in reducing the development of dental decay (cavities) it is gaining increasing acceptance as an alternative sweetener. Xylitol has been approved for use in more than 35 countries and has become an increasingly popular ingredient in foods, pharmaceuticals and oral health products. Xylitol is used in foods such as chewing gum (Breath Rx Halisphere Gum), gum drops and hard candy, and in pharmaceuticals and oral health products such as throat lozenges, cough syrups, children's chewable multivitamins, toothpastes (Squigle Enamel Saver Toothpaste) and mouthwashes.

In the United States, xylitol is approved as a direct food additive for use in foods for special dietary uses. The usefulness of polyols, including xylitol, as alternatives to sugars and as part of a comprehensive program including proper dental hygiene has been recognized by the American Dental Association. The FDA has also approved the use of a "does not promote tooth decay" health claim in labeling for sugar-free foods that contain xylitol or other polyols.

Q: If someone is on a strictly sugar-free diet is it safe to use a product containing xylitol?

A: Yes, there shouldn�t be a problem because Xylitol has a lot fewer calories than sugar and it is safe for diabetics with a glycemic index of 7.

A Good Sugar for Your Teeth

CINCINNATI (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Researchers presenting at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Annual Session in Cincinnati found a natural sweetener may not only improve the taste of gum and candies, it may also reduce tooth decay.

Their new study observed children school-aged children in Belize for several years. Some kids chewed regular gum, some chewed gum with other sugar substitutes, and the final group chewed gum with xylitol.

According to Margherita Fontana, DDS, Ph.D., of Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis, chewing gum with high doses of xylitol several times a day over a prolonged period reduced the incidence of tooth decay.

"The studies were mostly done in children, but it would apply also for adults," she said.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in trees, fruits and vegetables. Even though it is sweet, it doesn't interact with oral bacteria that produce acids that lead to cavities. Xylitol is available in some gum and juice brands currently on the market. But, Fontana said, you'll pay more.

Before you run to the store looking for gum with xylitol, however, Fontana said it may be difficult to find the appropriate amounts. "To get the effect that you got in those studies, you have to chew it at a certain dosage every day for a long period of time," she warned.

Meanwhile, other studies also show the benefits of xylitol. Another study done in Finland found fewer mothers transmitted cavity-causing bacteria to their children when they chewed gum with xylitol. The bacteria transmission occurs when mother and children share eating utensils.

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