Sugar, Sugar

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Xylitol - An Answer I Have Found Acceptable

What is xylitol and is it safe?

Xylitol is a natural sweetener found in many fruits and vegetables, including raspberries and plums. It tastes and looks like sugar. Because of its unique molecular structure, xylitol reduces the amount of tooth eating acid that is produced by the bacteria in our mouth. Xylitol is not a chemical or a drug. It's completely natural. It is even produced by the human body during normal metabolism (up to 15 grams daily from other foods).

The safety of xylitol has been extensively tested. To date, it is completely devoid of adverse effects. In fact, a commission of the US FDA reports that the use of xylitol is safe for humans and acceptable as an approved food additive in foods for special dietary uses. This indicates that xylitol is extremely safe and that no consumption limits are needed.

How does Xylitol differ from other sweeteners?

Xylitol is an all-natural sweetener that is as sweet as sugar. Because it is all-natural, it differs substantially from articifically created sweeteners like Splenda®, sucralose, aspartame, sacchrine, Sweet-N-Low, acesulfame potassium.

Xylitol is a nutritive sweetener that contains about 40% fewer calories than sugar. Because of its molecular structure, it is considered a polyol or “sugar alcohol.” Sugar alcohols are commonly used to sweeten sugar-free products and xylitol is considered a “sugar-free” sweetener. Sugar alcohols are neither sugars nor alcohols. They are carbohydrates with a chemical structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol, but they don’t contain ethanol as alcoholic beverages do. They are incompletely absorbed and metabolized by the body, and consequently contribute fewer calories. The polyols commonly used include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, maltitol, maltitol syrup, lactitol, erythritol, and isomalt.

Xylitol is the sweetest of all the sugar alcohols and has the greatest impact on the bacteria that cause tooth decay.

Q: How can products that claim to be sugarless still have lots of carbohydrates and be safe for diabetics?

A: The answer to your question lies in the broad definition of carbohydrate. There are many different types of carbohydrates. Not all are quickly metabolized into simple sugars that quickly raise blood glucose.

There are actually four distinct classes of carbohydrates in foods.

The first class is simple sugars naturally found in fruits, honey and sweeteners like cane sugar, cane juice, fructose, corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, maple syrup and fruit juice. These sugars are quickly metabolized, cause significant blood sugar swings, and are unhealthy for diabetics.

The second class is complex carbohydrates found in whole grains. When eaten with a meal containing fats and proteins, these carbohydrates are acceptable for diabetics.

The third class is sugar alcohol like sorbitol and zylitol. Sugar alcohols are not completely metabolized and are very slow to enter the blood stream. They are good sweeteners for diabetics because they don’t cause significant blood sugar swings.

The fourth class is fiber. Fiber is considered a carbohydrate, but is not metabolized at all by humans. It does not enter the bloodstream and does not increase blood sugar.

Thus, when choosing snack foods you must read the ingredient label and see what type of carbohydrates are in the food. Avoid snacks that are sweetened with simple sugars and look for snacks sweetened with xylitol or sorbitol. You can even purchase xylitol to use in cooking at home. Zylitol is also called birch sugar.

Q. Where can I find xylitol?

Some of the items in the grocery store now contain xylitol as a sweetener. My favorite is the pink 'sugar frree' trident gum my kids always want, but used to contain sachrine (a carcinogen). Now it contains xylitol and says so right on the front. Here are some useful info links and purchase places.

FYI : Xylitol dissolves easily in hot beverages and is useful in recipes, but when you want to sweeten a cold dring such as lemonade, I first dissolve in a couple teaspoons of warm water and then add the sweet liquid to the cold beverage.

Epic Products

Xylitol Now

Emerald Forest Xylitol