I have had recently had a lot of questions about Xylitol, So I have decided to post some information that has come largely from one of my favorite sources which is the Western Price Foundation. Hope you find it helpful.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, a low-calorie carbohydrate made from birch bark, fibrous vegetables and fruit. Xylitol has no known toxic levels and was approved by the FDA in 1963. Some diarrhea or slight cramping may occur at first if a large amount is consumed all at once. It is recommended that one start small and let the body's enzymes adjust, which they will do. Xylitol is deadly to dogs even in small amounts. Gums, candies, baked goods, and table scraps containing xylitol must be kept far away from, and inaccessible to dogs, including ladies' and children's purses, and the garbage for dogs who are foragers.
Xylitol had been known to the world of organic chemistry since it was first manufactured in 1891 by a German chemist. A natural, intermediate product, xylitol regularly occurs in the glucose metabolism of animals as well as in the metabolism of several plants and micro-organisms. Xylitol is even produced naturally in OUR bodies, up to 15 grams daily during normal metabolism. Because it metabolizes without using insulin, there is no blood sugar spike.
Xylitol's Dubious Health Claims
Since xylitol is an industrial product, it pays to be dubious about the industry’s health claims for it. First among these is the claim that xylitol prevents cavities. Indeed, many studies can be cited to support such a claim. But not all. The results of a recent two-year trial found no difference in cavities between those who chewed xylitol-containing gum and those who did not.
2. In an earlier study, researchers concluded that “Overall, consumption of xylitol-containing snacks and candy did not reduce S. mutans levels.”
3.As for the claim that xylitol is good for diabetics, the fact that this sweetener is not completely absorbed comes at a cost: bloating, diarrhea and flatulence. In a study performed on 18 diabetic children who consumed a dose of 30 grams of xylitol per day, researchers found a significant elevation of the uric acid concentration.4 And since 80 percent of xylitol is metabolized through the liver, a danger to liver function similar to that of fructose is a distinct possibility.
The Public Relations Story
The official website for xylitol, xylitol.org, states, “In the amounts needed to prevent tooth decay (less than 15 grams per day), xylitol is safe for everyone.” Fifteen grams of xylitol is about 0.5 ounces. What about doses over 15 grams?
In a long term toxicology study on rats researchers found that xylitol caused a significant increase in the incidence of adrenal medullary hyperplasia in male and female rats in all dose levels tested (5%, 10% and 20%).5 That means it caused abnormal cell growth in the adrenal glands. In one higher-dose study in which mice consumed 20 percent of their diet as xylitol, there was a significant increase in the mortality of the males as compared to those consuming sucrose.6 A major study in dogs found an increase in liver weight associated with xylitol use.7
Conclusions About Xylitol
Xylitol’s own promotional material says it is not safe for everyone to use. Since children are smaller and less developed than adults, they will obviously be much more sensitive to xylitol’s effects. There are no safety data or tests to indicate a safe dosage for children. And foods containing xylitol may also contain additional sweeteners that are undeniably harmful, such as aspartame.
As for claims that xylitol can prevent tooth decay, I can only say, “Buyer beware!” Such claims are based on the faulty theory that bacteria cause tooth decay. We know from the work of Weston Price that tooth decay is a problem of nutrient deficiencies—the bacteria are just there cleaning up dead tissue.
Finally, and most importantly, this industrial product is just not necessary. Nature has provided us with many wholesome sweeteners that can be used in moderation without adverse effects in the context of a diet of nutrient-dense traditional foods. Natural Stevia... the real thing is a better choice:
Spoonable Stevia by Stevita uses only stevia extract with at least 95% pure glycosides (extremely sweet tasting ingredients of the Stevia herb leaves), and a little erythritol, a crystal granulated naturally produced filler found in fruits, vegetables and grains. It is best for baking and sprinkling.
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Some research if you want to look at it
- Dehmel KH and others. Absorption of xylitol. Int. Symp on metabolism, physiololgy and clinical use of pentoses and pentitols. Hakone, Japan, 1967, 177-181, Ed. Horecker.
- Int J Paediatr Dent. 2008 May;18(3):170-7.
- J Am Dental Assoc, 2002;133(4):435-441.
- Förster, H., Boecker, S. and Walther, A. (1977) Verwendung von Xylitals Zuckeraustauschstoff bei diabetischen Kindern, Fortschr. Med.,95, nr. 2, 99-102.
- Russfield, A.D. (1981) Two-year feeding study of xylitol, sorbitol and sucrose in Charles River (UK) rats: Adrenal Medulla. Unpublished report.
- World Health Organization, Summary Of Toxicological Data Of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants, WHO Food Additives Series NO. 13 Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives* Rome, 3-12 April 1978 accessed at: http://www.inchem.org/documents/jecfa/jecmono/v13je11.htm.
- Heywood, R. et al. (1981) Revised report: Xylitol toxicity study in the beagle dog (Report of Huntingdon Research Centre).