Many of us are accustomed to overly sweetened food, yet it has been shown in a lot of research that too much sugar is no good for the body. We are warned about too much sugar in our diets with sugar-free products popping up all over the shop aisles and internet. Xylitol is one of the sweeteners to hit the market that has questionable benefits and side effects.
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is categorised as a sugar alcohol which means it is similar to sugars and alcohol. Sugar alcohols combine similar structures to sugar molecules and alcohol molecules which means when they are consumed it tastes sweet just like sweet sugary food.
It can be found in a plant fibre called xylan. It shows up in small amounts in fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, cauliflower and pumpkin, and from grains like wheat. However, xylitol is also produced in a lab from xylose.
Even though xylitol tastes very sweet it doesn’t contain any cane or table sugar and contains 40% fewer calories. It is a refined sweetener, therefore, has no nutritional content. This means there are no vitamins and minerals, making xylitol a source of “empty calories” adding no nutritional benefit to the body.
Foods with Xylitol
Xylitol is commonly used in products to sweeten without the use of sugar. Here is a list of some products containing xylitol:
- Sugar-free chewing gum
- Ice cream
- Cough syrups
- Chewable vitamins
- Diabetic-friendly food
- Some supplements
Is Xylitol Good or Bad For You?
Xylitol could be classed as a natural product but does that mean it is actually healthy for the body? Natural does not always mean it is healthy. Unfortunately, there is not enough research to show all of the health benefits or major side effects of xylitol, yet there are some health benefits and side effects are currently known.
Potential Health Benefits of Xylitol
- Improve Dental Health – It is known to potentially prevent cavities and is recommended by some dentists for healthy teeth and gums. Xylitol might be able to kill bacteria in the mouth, reduce plaque buildup and tooth decay which will help to support teeth and gum health.
- Support Blood Sugar – For anyone needing to keep sugar low, xylitol could be a good choice for consumption to avoid increasing blood sugar and insulin levels. As xylitol contains no fructose, it doesn’t affect blood sugar, potentially making it a great substitute for those with diabetes.
Potential Side Effects of Xylitol
Toxic to Dogs – Xylitol can be harmful to dogs to consume so it is best to keep that delicious looking treat with xylitol away from the fur baby. It is known to affect liver function, low blood sugar and potentially cause death.
Xylitol consumption is considered harmless to people but is known to cause life-threatening toxicoses in dogs. Dogs that ingest doses of >0.1 g/kg of xylitol are at risk for developing hypoglycemia, while dogs that ingest >0.5 g/kg may develop acute liver failure. – PubMed
In general, xylitol is known to be ok for human consumption, however, some people are known to experience a few issues when consuming too much.
Digestive Issues – Our gut is very powerful and needs the right nutrients to function properly. When there is too much of a specific food consumed at once it can cause havoc in the gut. Sugar alcohols are known to upset the healthy gut balance due to being fermented by the gut bacteria which ferments in the body creating a harmful environment for food and bacteria to synchronise. When digestion is impacted this can cause issues such as bloating, constipation, gas and diarrhoea.
- Weight Gain – Xylitol is sweeter than standard sugar which has the potential to affect peoples taste buds and satiety. When our taste buds become accustomed to a strong flavour such as sweetness overload, this can lead to your body finding healthy unsweetened foods less unsatisfying. This can lead to you eating less of the non-sweet foods your body needs, instead turning to overly sweetened foods which generally equates to richer, fatter, sugary, unhealthy foods packed with sweeteners.
Are you looking for a healthy sweet fix?
Check out these articles for inspiration:
- 7 Foods That Curb Sugar Cravings
- Beware of Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects
- 7 Tips for Cutting Out Sugar for Weight Loss