For decades, Xylitol sweetener has been used as an all-natural additive to enhance the flavor and sweetness of popular chewing gums and candies that are sold worldwide. It's use as a commercial sweetening agent is global.
Interest and demand for the natural sweetener has heightened among health-conscious consumers looking for alternatives to traditional sugar and potentially dangerous artificially manufactured sweeteners. Some prefer the taste over naturally derived stevia, as well.
Xylitol sweetener was first discovered by French and German chemists in the late 1800's.
It is classified as a sugar alcohol and naturally occurs in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, birch trees and mushrooms.
While the sweetening agent is considered a carbohydrate, it is slowly absorbed by the body and does not produce spikes in blood glucose levels, which are inherent to sucrose-based agents.
As a result, Xylitol is considered beneficial by many and a good option for those who need to limit and manage sugar intake. The natural sweetener can help facilitate weight loss because it has 40 percent fewer calories than sugar.
There are no known toxicity issues related to the sweetener. In fact, studies show that using it regularly can provide wellness benefits. Research indicates this natural sweetening agent supports dental health. The reason is that sugar alcohol cannot be utilized by bacteria in the mouth to promote tooth decay and oral disease. Xylitol is also purported to help reduce plaque build-up and inhibit existing cavities from worsening.
Because of its ability to prevent bacteria growth, the sweetener’s natural properties are thought to be helpful in reducing ear and upper respiratory infections.
Like most sugar alcohols, it can produce a mild laxative effect at high doses. Yet, a laboratory study using rats was published in the Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism demonstrated that ingestion of xylitol produced fewer digestive issues for individuals when compared to chemically derived artificial sweeteners.
Xylitol in powder form can be purchased at health food stores in bulk. For added convenience, it is also available in individually packaged servings from many grocery and health retailers.