What is Xylitol?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sweetener that is found in fruit (raspberries, strawberries, plums) vegetables (corn, endive), mushrooms and
the human body produces xylitol in its daily metabolic process. In practice xylitol is manufactured by processing
birch wood or corn cobs, extracting the xylan and reacting it with water to produce xylose ("wood sugar") then H2 (hydrogen) is added to make Xylitol
which is a polyol.
Where and when was xylitol discovered?
The wood sugar xylose was hydrogenated to produce xylitol in 1891 by the German chemist Emil Fischer. Xylitol has been used since the 1960s
in the Soviet Union, Germany, Switzlerland and Japan as the preferred sweetener in diabetic diets. Xylitol is also used intravenously
for patients with impaired glucose tolerance (i.e. trauma, burn, diabetic & insulin resistance). Xylitol's dental benefits were first
studied in Finland. In the early 70s researchers at Turku University showed xylitol could prevent dental caries.
How is Xylitol different than other sweeteners?
Xylitol is a "sugar alcohol". Chemically, sucrose (sugar), fructose, sorbitol and glucose all have six carbon atoms in their molecules. Xylitol has
five carbon atoms in its molecules. Six carbon molecules are easily digested by oral bacteria but a five carbon molecule has strong chemical bonds
that are very difficult for bacteria to digest. So when xylitol is consumed, these bacteria populations starve out and decline. This is one way
that xylitol helps prevent plaque and cavities. Xylitol has the same sweetness as sugar but with 40% less calories. Xylitol's functional
properties are similar to sugar, it dissolves slower at cold temperatures but faster than sugar above 86 degrees F.
How does Xylitol work to help teeth?
Xylitol works in 3 major ways. The first way is explained above and is due to its strong chemical molecular structure so cavity and plaque
forming oral bacteria such as streptococcus mutans can not feed on it.
The second way xylitol works is by raising the oral pH
to more alkaline. When the streptococcus mutans bacteria are fed by sugar, they produce acids (lower the pH below 7) that slowly but surely weaken
the protective tooth enamel. Once pockets of the enamel are gone, cavities begin to form.
Since these bacteria can not use xylitol, they decrease and the oral pH stays higher (above 7 is more alkaline). Instead of being destroyed
in an acid pH, the tooth enamel in an alkaline pH tend to form, this is why xylitol helps to remineralize tooth enamel.
The third way that
xylitol works is by stimulating saliva flow. Saliva is the mouth's natural defense against invaders like 6 carbon sugars but when too much
sugar is ingested too often, the saliva can not defend the teeth because of the acid pH created by sugar usage. Again, saliva containing xylitol
is an effective substance to decrease bad bacteria and promote the growth of tooth enamel. Xylitol is an amazing therapeutic sweetener.
In what proportions
should I use xylitol in comparison to sugar?
Xylitol has the same sweetness as sugar and should be used in one
to one proportions to sugar. Where one cup of sugar is called for simply
use a cup of xylitol instead for healthier recipes.
How much and
how often should I take xylitol (gum or mints) to enjoy the many dental
Chew one or two pieces of gum or take 2-4 mints four to six times daily
after meals, snacks and before bed time. After eating or snacks, rinse your mouth with water, then use xylitol gum/mints.
Studies have proven that a minimum of four times a day gives very good results.
help my longevity?
Good oral health promotes good over all health. Using xylitol is an excellent way to ensure you keep your teeth
throughout your life. In addition xylitol maintains glutathione activity
which aids in preventing damage done by free radicals. By keeping blood
glucose steady, xylitol can help decrease the formation of sugar damaged
proteins. New studies are also suggesting a link between poor oral hygiene and cardiovascular and heart problems. Patients with
the highest risk for heart related health problems are the ones with poor oral hygiene.
promote growth of Candida albacans yeast?
Yeast grow well on 6 carbon molecule sugars but do not
grow on 5 carbon molecules like xylitol. If xylitol is used consistently over a
moderate period of time, yeast colonies tend to decline.
safe to use?
Yes. Oral xylitol consumption has a long history of safety. The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), a scientific
advisory group to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organiziation (FAO) of the United Nations, gave an Acceptable
Daily Intake (ADI) of "not specified" for xylitol. An ADI of "not specified" is the safest category that JECFA can give to a food additive.
In 1986 the FDA also stated xylitol as safe for human consumption. No sweetener should be consumed in bulk and the same is true for xylitol.
The laxation threshold of xylitol is higher than other polyols and is not even approached by the small dosages needed for dental protection.
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