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Xylitol is an all-natural substance that looks and tastes like regular table sugar (or sucrose), but has 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbohydrates. Plus, unlike regular sugar, xylitol produces only a minimal insulin response, making it an ideal sweetener for diabetics, hypoglycemics and individuals on low-calorie or low-carbohydrate diets. Xylitol also behaves like sugar in most recipes, with the exception that it does not caramelize like sugar. Furthermore, both the FDA and the World Health Organization have deemed xylitol safe for use as a food supplement.1-6

In technical terms, xylitol is a polyol (or sugar alcohol) derived from the plant fiber, hemicellulose. Xylitol is found in many foods, including berries (especially raspberries), plums, cauliflower, lettuce and mushrooms, as well as corncobs and hardwoods such as birch. Xylitol is also produced by the body as part of normal glucose metabolism. Xylitol has a low glycemic index of 7. The glycemic index is a rating of foods on a scale of 1 to 100, based on their direct effect on blood glucose levels. Foods with the lowest glycemic index are considered the healthiest, especially given that diets based on high glycemic index carbohydrate foods have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.1-3,6-8

Numerous studies conducted over the past 20 years have found that xylitol provides several health benefits. Xylitol has been shown to prevent tooth decay and cavities, reduce dental plaque formation and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), and promote the remineralization (or rebuilding) of tooth enamel. Xylitol also stimulates saliva production and may help reduce abnormal dryness of the mouth, also known as xerostomia. Eating xylitol-sweetened food or chewing xylitol-sweetened gum or mints inhibits the growth of bacteria responsible for dental caries (tooth decay), which can lead to cavities. Evidence suggests that small daily quantities of xylitol added to the diet of children and young adults results in significant reductions in dental caries. In fact, long-term clinical trials have demonstrated reductions ranging from 30% to more than 85% in dental caries, simply by using a few pieces of xylitol chewing gum daily over a period of 1 to 3 years. Furthermore, it may be surprising to learn that dental caries is actually a transmissible infectious disease. Researchers studied the effects of chewing xylitol-sweetened gum in mothers of infants and young children. Results confirmed that the transfer of mutans streptococci (the main bacteria associated with dental caries) from mother to child was blocked, resulting in fewer dental caries in children whose mothers chewed xylitol gum.1-4,9-23

In addition, by improving oral health, xylitol may help reduce the risk of heart disease. Several studies have reported an association between poor oral health and heart disease, including atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and vascular disease (conditions that affect the blood vessels). In fact, one study found that poor oral health was a greater predictor of heart disease than other indicators, such as high triglycerides or low HDL cholesterol levels.24-28

Another health benefit of xylitol is the reduction in episodes of acute otitis media (short-term inflammation and/or infection of the middle ear). Xylitol has been shown to effectively prevent acute otitis media by inhibiting the growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Research indicates that regular use of xylitol reduces the occurrence of acute otitis media in children by 30% to 40%. Xylitol’s ability to inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacteria may also prove to have clinical significance in the prevention of other infections that originate in the mouth, including sinus and lung infections.1-3,29-36

Furthermore, xylitol may help prevent osteoporosis. Animals studies have shown that xylitol enhances calcium absorption and increases bone density. In fact, scientists involved with one study concluded that xylitol helped protect against aging-related osteoporotic changes (or loss of bone) in aged rats. Additional animal studies found that the combination of xylitol and calcium carbonate was more effective in increasing bone density than calcium carbonate alone.2,37-41

Some first-time users of xylitol may experience an initial mild laxative effect that will subside with continued use, as the body’s digestive enzymes adjust to regular xylitol intake.1,2

Note: Xylitol is not recommended for pets, particularly dogs. Although completely safe for human consumption, in dogs, xylitol acts as a strong stimulator of insulin release, which can cause severe hypoglycemia accompanied by ataxia (loss of coordination), collapse, seizures, and even fatal liver failure. The effects of xylitol on cats and ferrets is unknown. If a pet is suspected of ingesting xylitol or xylitol-containing foods, contact a veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) immediately.43-45

Nature’s Sweet Life Xylitol Bulk sweetener is made from non-genetically modified (non-GMO) corn. This product is gluten-free and does not contain any corn residue.42

Nature’s Sweet Life Xylitol Gum contains xylitol, gum base, natural flavor (cinnamon oil, green tea, spearmint oil or peppermint oil), vegetable glycerin, gum arabic, soy lecithin, and beeswax.

Nature’s Sweet Life Xylitol Mints contain xylitol, calcium lactate, magnesium stearate, gum arabic, natural flavor (lemon oil, peppermint oil or berry), and glazing agent (beeswax).

This information is provided by YourRoadLessTraveled.com

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22Thorild, I., et. al. “Caries in 4-year-old children after maternal chewing of gums containing combinations of xylitol, sorbitol, chlorhexidine and fluoride.“ European Archives of Paediatric Dentistry; 2006, 7(4):241-245.

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36Sajjan, U., et. al. “A novel model to study bacterial adherence to the transplanted airway: inhibition of Burkholderia cepacia adherence to human airway by dextran and xylitol.“ The Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation; 2004, 23(12):1382-1391.

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41—. “Increased bone volume and bone mineral content in xylitol-fed aged rats.“ Gerontology; 2001, 47(6):300-305.

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44Dunayer, E.K. & Gwaltney-Brant, S.M. “Acute hepatic failure and coagulopathy associated with xylitol ingestion in eight dogs.“ Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association; 2006, 229(7):1113-1117.

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