Xylitol: The Best Weapon Against Dental Decay
What is Xylitol?
Xylitol (zye'lit-awl) sugar naturally occurs in oats, berries, fruits, mushrooms, and hard woods like birch.
Most commercially manufactured xylitol is harvested from the xylem layer of birch bark or from corn. We also produce it in our bodies in small quantities.
Xylitol is sweeter than ordinary sugar, yet is safe for diabetics and does not contribute to cavities. In fact, it is the only natural sugar to be both non-cariogenic (does not cause cavities) as well as anti-cariogenic (actually prevents cavities from forming!)
It was discovered in the late 19th century simultaneously by German and French chemists. They found that xylitol did not affect insulin levels in the body, and it became popular in Europe.
In the 1970s, scientists in Finland found that xylitol also did not contribute to cavities. More recently (in the last 5-10 years) xylitol has finally caught on in the United States.
Xylitol Prevents Cavities!
Other than fluoride, there is nothing that claims to be anti-cariogenic--except xylitol. This means xylitol not only won't cause cavities, but it will prevent them from forming in the first place.
How does it work? Xylitol is what's known as a non-fermentable sugar alcohol. In other words, bacteria are not able to break it down or process it into lactic acid. This acid is what attacks your teeth and leads to cavities. Every time you sip a sugary beverage (milk, pop, juice, wine, beer), there is a 20-minute acid attack on your teeth. Xylitol stops this attack from happening by raising the oral pH.
A pH of above 7 allows teeth to remineralize (repair) enamel and protects teeth from further assaults. It also reverses the beginning stages of decay (white spot lesions).
With daily use, harmful bacterial colonies can be reduced by as much as 90%!
Xylitol raises the pH in the mouth to actually prevent cavities from forming and to help repair enamel and strengthen teeth.
The results are long lasting. Scientists believe that the benefits of xylitol consumption last permanently.
Xylitol is Safe for Diabetics!
No diabetics, you're not dreaming. Not only is xylitol sugar sweeter than normal table sugar, it's also safe for those living with diabetes.
Insulin is not required to break down this polyol sugar; therefore, there is very little to no change in blood glucose levels.
If you have diabetes, you'll be happy to note that many companies online make sweet treats using xylitol instead of sugar.
- Absorbed slowly
- Low glycemic index (GI = 7)
- Zero net effective carbohydrates
- Low calorie (1 tsp. xylitol = 9.6 cal.; 1 tsp. sugar = 15 cal.)
- Does not contribute to high blood sugar levels
- Does not contribute to hyperglycemia
Other Benefits of Xylitol
Though discovered in the late 19th century, xylitol didn't catch on until the 1970s when researchers in Finland found it had huge dental benefits. It's been used throughout Europe in gum, candy, and mints ever since.
The USA has only recently begun to dabble with xylitol sugar, used commercially mostly as an alternative sweetener in gum. However, it is available in health food stores, and there's a booming new xylitol trade online offering a wide range of products.
Xylitol has grown in popularity in response to its usefulness treating the following conditions:
- Osteoporosis - prevents weakening of bones
- Ear Infections - prevents growth of bacteria in Eustachian tubes
- Upper respiratory infections - prevents adherence of bacteria
- Infection - increases activity of neutrophils (white blood cells)
- Candida yeast - helps control / prevent oral candida infections
- Metabolic syndrome - xylitol does not require insulin to metabolize
Dosage & Delivery
The minimum recommended dosage for the prevention of cavities and remineralization of soft spots in enamel is 6 grams per day. Ideally this will be spread throughout the day, especially after meals and before bedtime.
Xylitol comes in many forms, perfectly fitting into everyone's lifestyle. There are bulk bags of xylitol sugar crystals, xylitol sugar packets, gum, candy, baked goods, mints, toothpastes, and mouthwashes.
Warnings & Other Information
Excessive consumption of xylitol (65 grams in one day) can lead to explosive diarrhea, but no other symptoms have occurred in double-blind research studies.
Xylitol is not safe for dogs.
Cooking & Baking:
Xylitol shares a 1:1 ratio with sugar, meaning there's no need for adapting the recipe for sweetness. However, it does absorb liquid more than sugar. Xylitol will not make yeast rise, so it's not for use in breads.
Were you aware of all the health benefits of xylitol?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2011 Kate P