Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the SweetLife FAQ, your source of information on natural sweeteners and SweetLife products. If you have any further questions about our natural sugar free sweeteners, xylitol benefits, our SweetLife products or more, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call on 1300 768 783.


What is xylitol?

Xylitol is one of a group of sugar substitutes known as polyols. Others in the same group include sorbitol and maltitol, which have 6 carbon structures (and can be metabolised by harmful bacteria). However, xylitol has a unique 5 carbon structure which is metabolised only by friendly bacteria. Xylitol is a sweetener that occurs naturally. It can be found in berries and other fruits, some vegetables and in the woody fibres of birch tree bark and corn cobs. It is even produced by the human body as a part of normal metabolism.

Where was xylitol discovered?

Xylitol was discovered almost simultaneously by German and French chemists in the late 19th century. In the Soviet Union it has been used for decades as a sweetener for diabetics, and in Germany in solutions for intravenous feeding. In China, xylitol has been used for various medical purposes. It is now used in over 40 countries as a safe, natural and healthy alternative sweetener. It has been approved by FDA in the USA for over 25 years.

How is xylitol manufactured?

Xylitol derives its name from xylan, meaning wood, and is manufactured from natural xylan-rich sources (biomass) such as birch tree bark, and corn fibre. Wood sugar (xylose) is extracted from the biomass, and the liquid wood sugar is then converted to pure crystalline xylitol.

How is xylitol metabolised in the body?

Dietary xylitol is easily metabolised by the body. A small portion is slowly absorbed through the small intestine and carried in the portal blood supply to the liver, where it is converted to glucose. Because of the slowness of absorption, the majority of xylitol (approximately ¾ of that consumed) moves down to the lower intestine, there it is metabolised by friendly bacteria to short-chain fatty acids, which are mostly returned to the liver for oxidation, providing energy (2).

Is xylitol suitable for diabetics?

Xylitol has a very low glycemic index of 7. Consumption of xylitol has a negligible to nil effect on blood glucose levels and insulin. It has been used for many years in the USA, former USSR, and Europe in the diabetic diet (2-4).

How does xylitol differ from other sweeteners?

Xylitol is the only natural sugar substitute that has the same sweetening power and delicious taste of sucrose. It differs from other natural sweeteners such as sorbitol, fructose and glucose because the xylitol molecule has five, instead of six, carbon atoms. This means that it cannot be fermented by harmful mouth bacteria that cause tooth decay (1). Xylitol differs from intense artificial sweeteners including aspartame, acesulfame-K and sucralose in that it has no adverse effects or bitter aftertaste.

Does xylitol have any aftertaste?

Xylitol has no aftertaste at all. It has a nearly identical taste to sugar.

Is xylitol safe?

Yes it is. The oral and metabolic safety of xylitol has been exhaustively assessed by various international and national regulatory authorities. It was approved for use in the United Sates by the FDA in 1963, and in 1983 the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). A collaboration between the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) recommended that no daily limit be placed on xylitol consumption (the safest category for a food additive). It was further approved in 1994 by the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods (MAFF), and also the EU (although prior to this date xylitol was approved at national level in more than 40 countries). In 1997, approval was given by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare.

How much xylitol do I use in my tea or coffee?

Xylitol is spoon for spoon as sweet as sugar in tea or coffee but many of our customers say they use a little less in their hot drinks.

Should you avoid sugar and only use xylitol?

Dentists recognize the futility of advice to avoid sugars. It is behaviorally unrealistic and besides, any fermentable carbohydrate can contribute to tooth decay. Even folks who claim they eat “no sugar” may expose their teeth to significant sources from honey, malt syrup, rice syrup, fruits and even medications. Given enough time, salivary enzymes can break down starch into simple sugars. Replacing all dietary sugars, or even just the “accessible” sugars in the diet with xylitol is expensive and impractical. Thankfully it is also unnecessary. Just a little bit of xylitol in chewing gum (or in a form that can be kept in contact with the teeth for a while), is all that is needed to blunt the “acid attack” after eating. Consistently using small amounts of xylitol tends to increase protective factors in saliva and help maintain pH in the safe range above 5.7. Oral pH becomes less acidic with continued xylitol use. There is more saliva with greater buffering capacity so demineralizing conditions seldom occur, because saliva production decreases during sleep, xylitol should be used after late-night snacks or medications (syrups and chewable tablets often contain sugar).

Cooking and Baking

Is xylitol good to use in cooking and baking?

Xylitol behaves the same as table sugar in cooking and baking, however sometimes the sweetness has to be adjusted depending on the recipe.

What quantity of xylitol do I use compared to sugar in my cakes?

The quantity of xylitol used in recipes depends on each individual’s taste. However, when using xylitol in recipes with white flour use a half cup xylitol to one cup of white sugar. Taste the batter and adjust if not sweet enough. A banana cake is going to need less xylitol than a lemon cake. If your first cake is not sweet enough you can make a thin glaze with the Perfect Sweet™ xylitol by adding a little lemon juice or water and spreading it over the cake. The icing will not behave exactly the same as normal icing as xylitol does not caramelize. Next time you bake that particular recipe add a little more Perfect Sweet™ Xylitol if you need it sweeter. You may also like to make a frosting. 

What else can I use xylitol in?

Xylitol can replace sugar in most recipes and is great over porridge, weetbix and mixed in natural yoghurt for added sweetness. Children love it and unlike sugar it is great for their teeth.

How do I replace sugar with Perfect Sweet™ xylitol in biscuits or soft cookies?

Use half a cup of Perfect Sweet™ xylitol to one cup of sugar. Unlike biscuits made with sugar, biscuits made with Perfect Sweet™ will remain soft when baked. Leave them out overnight to dry out and then store them. Like chocolate the biscuits must be kept well away from dogs.

How do I bake pavlova?

When baking your own recipe for Pavlova use two thirds of Perfect Sweet™ xylitol to one cup of sugar (to adjust your sugar ingredient quantity). It may not be as crisp and will not rise as much as normal pavlova (unless you add extra egg whites) but this is a small price to pay for a healthier sugar free Pavlova. We make a delicious trifle by layering crushed soft pavlova, whipped fresh cream, sliced strawberries or berries and then drizzled melted dark chocolate. Repeat this layer once or twice. The first time I made pavlova it was a “flop” so I used it for this trifle and it was a huge hit!!!

How do I replace sugar with Perfect Sweet™ xylitol in unbaked cakes and ice-cream?

If you are making recipes (eg ice cream, uncooked cheesecakes) that are not baked use ¾ to equal quantities of Perfect Sweet™ xylitol to sugar. Quantities vary with the individuals taste.

How do I use Perfect Sweet™ xylitol in jams and lemon butter?

Depending on the ripeness of the fruit our customers use ⅔ Perfect Sweet™ xylitol to the sugar quantity required in jam recipes. You may need to use lemon or pectin to thicken your jams.

How do I use Perfect Sweet™ xylitol in chutneys, sauces, marinades and salad dressings?

Use half the quantity of Perfect Sweet™ xylitol to sugar in chutneys, tomato and barbecue sauces, marinades and salad dressings. Adjust according to individual taste.

How does xylitol react when subjected to direct heat? Example: When sugar is sprinkled onto a pan and heated, it will eventually turn to liquid. Will xylitol do the same?

Xylitol will do the same type of thing, but it takes a much higher temperature than sugar. Typically, xylitol will turn into a liquid at 93 to 96 degrees celcius. However, it will not caramelize.

Can Perfect Sweet™ xylitol be used in candy making (hard candy)?

Perfect Sweet™ xylitol cannot be used to make hard candy, due to its inability to caramelize.

Wellbeing and weight loss

How does xylitol offer weight loss benefits?

Sugar in the diet can cause insulin fluctuations which often creates sugar cravings as insulin levels drop. Xylitol is 7 on the glycemic index (table sugar is 65). The glycemic index or GI measures the ability of a food to raise insulin levels. Xylitol does not increase blood sugar or insulin levels, therefore reducing cravings for sugary foods while allowing a sweet tooth to be satisfied.

Is xylitol suitable for use in low carbohydrate diets?

As only about one quarter of consumed xylitol becomes glucose, it is stated to have 75% less carbohydrate than table sugar. Therefore it is suitable for use in a low carbohydrate diet.

If I am counting carbohydrates in my diet, how much do I calculate for xylitol?

Xylitol has 75% of its content classed as “unavailable carbohydrate”. This is because most of the xylitol eaten passes through to the lower intestine and is not converted to glucose. Therefore only one quarter of the weight of xylitol can be counted as carbohydrate. (Note: nutrition information panels often subtract polyols like xylitol completely from the carbohydrate count.)

What is the caloric value of xylitol?

Xylitol has been analysed in the United States and Europe as having 2.4 kcal per gram, which is 40% less than table sugar.

Is xylitol a good sweetener in sports drinks for active people and athletes?

Sports nutrition is going to be a huge new area for xylitol research. Because of xylitol’s low glycemic index and mostly insulin-independent metabolism it is ideal for maintaining steady blood sugar and insulin levels. This may help promote muscle building (anabolism).

What health benefits does xylitol have?

Xylitol consumption has a number of health benefits, both dental and medical. Teeth are protected not only because plaque accumulation and tooth decay are diminished (6-10), but because xylitol remineralises and strengthens tooth enamel (11-13). In addition, xylitol helps keep the intestines healthy because friendly bacteria which metabolise xylitol can flourish. In Europe in the 1970’s, xylitol was referred to as “glucose with delay” because of its slow and steady conversion to glucose, without impacting on insulin, and hence its use in parenteral nutrition.

What are the differences between xylitol and fructose?

They are both nutritive sweeteners, however xylitol is not classed as a sugar like fructose because of its 5-carbon structure (fructose has a 6-carbon structure). The metabolism of xylitol is mostly insulin-independent, whereas that of fructose is not (the GI of xylitol is 7, compared to 23 for fructose). Fructose can be metabolised by harmful bacteria and is as cariogenic as sugar, whereas xylitol cannot be metabolised by harmful bacteria in the mouth and gut because of its 5-carbon structure. Xylitol protects the mouth against plaque and tooth decay, and helps keep the natural flora balance in the gut by allowing friendly bacteria to flourish.

Are there any side effects of xylitol consumption?

Clinical studies have demonstrated that xylitol consumption of up to 70 grams per day can be tolerated in diabetic patients, and up to 200 grams per day in adapted normal subjects without side effects. Some sensitive individuals may experience a slight laxative effect with the higher doses. As the enzymes that metabolise xylitol adapt to consumption over time, if this effect occurs it is usually transient (5). In practice, xylitol consumption would be not expected to exceed 30-50 grams per day.

How does xylitol protect women against thrush (Candida)?

Thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the yeast-like fungus, Candida albicans. Yeast thrives on sugar. Substituting xylitol for sugar helps lessen the incidence and severity of thrush by depriving yeast of its food source. Xylitol also helps reduce thrush through its fermentation in the gut by friendly bacteria, which proliferate and whose increased numbers then crowd out growth by pathogenic micro-organisms like C. albicans.

Dental Benefits

What research has been done on xylitol chewing gum?

A large number of studies examining the positive role of xylitol in dental health have been done from the 1970’s until the present. Xylitol has recently received support from the Journal of the American Dental Association: “xylitol is an effective preventive agent against dental caries. Consumption of xylitol-containing chewing gum has been demonstrated to reduce caries in Finnish teenagers by 30-60 percent. Studies conducted in Canada, Thailand, Polynesia and Belize have shown similar results…” A review of the literature conducted by Catherine Hayes at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine concluded that “xylitol can significantly decrease the incidence of dental caries” (16).

Why is xylitol an important aid in caries prevention?

Xylitol is not fermented by oral bacteria like Streptacoccus mutans due to its unique 5-carbon backbone, and therefore cannot be converted to harmful acids. These bacteria are therefore stopped from producing plaque on the tooth surfaces, where the acid formed can attack the enamel leading to caries (9,14,15).

How does xylitol help tooth mineralisation?

Studies have shown that decalcified sites on tooth enamel can remineralise after habitual xylitol use, and there is also an inhibitory effect on the demineralisation of sound enamel (11-13).

Does xylitol have a mineralising effect on bones as well as teeth?

Several animal studies have shown increased bone strength, density and mineral content after dietary xylitol consumption (20,21,22).

How can mothers help protect their children’s teeth?

Studies have demonstrated that mothers who chew xylitol gum while their children are infants reduce the levels of cariogenic bacteria in their children’s mouths. The children subsequently experience significantly less tooth decay (18), with the benefit extending years beyond the end of the study period (19).

Does xylitol in chewing gum protect teeth better than sorbitol which is so commonly used?

Xylitol offers a much higher level of mouth protection than sorbitol (6,12,14). Sorbitol is another polyol but it has a 6 carbon structure and because of this, sorbitol can support the growth of cariogenic mutans streptococci and other oral bacteria after adaptation, which cause plaque and tooth decay. Xylitol is not fermented by mouth bacteria and has been shown in many clinical studies to reduce plaque and tooth decay.

How much xylitol gum should be chewed each day for maximal dental protection?

Research shows that 5-10 grams of xylitol per day gives optimal protection. This means chewing 2 pieces of gum at least 4-5 times daily. The gum should be chewed immediately after a meal or a snack (5).

How does xylitol take care of a mouth dryness problem?

In terms of dental health, it is good to increase the salivary flow rate as often as possible. This keeps the pH of the mouth more alkaline and resistant to tooth decay. Xylitol in chewing gum stimulates salivary flow and is therefore also useful for protecting the teeth of people who suffer from dry mouth.

Further xylitol information

How does xylitol aid in preventing middle ear infections?

During 1990, an estimated 24.5 million visits were made to office-based physicians in the United States at which the principal diagnosis was a middle ear infection, or otitis media. Xylitol acts by suppressing the growth of the nasopharyngeal bacteria responsible. Well-controlled studies in children demonstrate that using xylitol sweetened chewing gum reduces or prevents the recurrence of Acute Otitis Media or AOM (17).

How will I see dental benefits from sweetlife dental gum?

It is not necessary to replace all sweeteners to get the dental benefits of xylitol. Look for xylitol-sweetened products that encourage chewing or sucking to keep the xylitol in contact with your teeth for at least 4-5 minutes at a time. Studies show that 4 to 12 grams of xylitol per day are very effective. It’s easy to keep track of your xylitol intake. You could begin with as little as one piece four times a day for a total of three grams. It is not necessary to use more than 15 grams per day as higher intakes yield only small additional dental benefits.

How Often?

CONSISTENCY IS IMPORTANT, use daily. If used only occasionally or even as often as once a day, xylitol may NOT be effective, regardless of the amount. FREQUENCY IS THE KEY, Use xylitol at least three, and preferably 5 times every day. The anticariogenic effect of xylitol stems partly from the affected bacteria population in the mouth and partly from the properties of saliva. Xylitol is a natural and convenient way of supplementing daily dental care. Research shows that a mere 5-10g/ day is enough. In practice, this means 7-14 pieces of chewing gum a day. Timing? Use immediately after eating and clearing the mouth by swishing water, if possible. The pieces should be chewed immediately after a meal or a snack. If you eat more snacks, you of course need more frequent help from xylitol. Between meals and snacks, replace ordinary chewing gum with sugar-free sweetlife dental gum.

What causes tooth decay?

Dental caries (tooth decay) is a multifactorial disease process. Enamel, the mostly inorganic hard outer tooth layer, is dissolved (demineralized) by acids produced from sugars by plaque bacteria. Bacteria can more rapidly invade and eat away the inner dentin layer because it is softer and contains more organic material. The tooth surface is in a dynamic state of flux between demineralization (destruction) and remineralization (repair). Acid conditions (lower pH) favor the loss of calcium and phosphate from the tooth while neutral or alkaline (higher pH) conditions help to replace minerals. Individuals susceptible to tooth decay tend to have less buffering capacity against plaque acid. Their saliva pH tends to drop lower and recover more slowly. Demineralization predominates at lower pH, beginning at around 5.7. Thicker plaque helps to hold acid against teeth and leads to surface destruction that begins in localized sheltered areas. Tooth decay occurs at the intersection of the necessary elements: bacterial plaque acids dissolving a susceptible tooth over time. Xylitol interferes with all of the destructive elements and helps to tilt the balance in favour of dental protective factors.

Can xylitol prevent tooth decay?

Yes, xylitol is non-acidogenic and non-cariogenic. Xylitol is essentially non-fermentable and therefore cannot be converted to acids by oral bacteria (primarily strep mutans, the main bacteria responsible for tooth decay). Xylitol can even be left on the teeth overnight and not cause any damage. With proper use, xylitol can stop the formation of tooth decay (cariostatic).

Can xylitol reverse tooth decay?

Yes, to a minor degree. Xylitol is not merely an inert bystander but can exert an active counter force to decay (anticariogenic). This depends upon how the xylitol is used. The delivery method, the amount, the timing, and the frequency are important. (Kept in the mouth for at least 5 minutes after meals and snacks, 4-5 times daily) xylitol can enhance the remineralization or healing process. This remineralization happens best in small decay spots just beginning in the enamel. Larger holes won’t go away and will still require a filling or restoration, but they can harden and become less sensitive.

If I'm allergic to corn, will I be allergic to xylitol derived from corn cobs?

Not likely, xylitol is a base molecule. The allergens people are usually allergic to are found in the corn kernel, not the cob. Through the extraction process, the xylitol is completely removed from all the corn protein. Perfect Sweet™ is pharmaceutical grade, which is the purest form of xylitol, having gone through 3 extra stages of purification, as opposed to food grade. 

Is xylitol safe for my pets?

No. – We do not recommend that xylitol products be fed to pets. Our products are intended for human consumption only. SweetLife does not supply products for dogs, nor do we recommend dog owners give their dogs xylitol or any other food designated for human consumption.

Xylitol brings extraordinary health benefits to people but it is not intended for dogs. Our products are for human consumption only. For further information (click Xylitol & Dogs).

What the difference between Corn Cob xylitol versus Birch Tree xylitol and why do some people want to scare you from buying xylitol manufactured from corn cobs?

We have noticed an increase in the number of phone calls from our customers, asking about the difference between birch tree and corn cob xylitol. Their concerns have come from some negative advertising directed at xylitol manufactured outside the USA. Most companies selling xylitol products are just as concerned about protecting the environment and providing a quality product as you are. There is no justification in cutting down a tree when the exact same product can be harvested from corn cob (renewable resource) at one third the cost (non-GMO and pesticide free). There is no difference in taste, health benefits or quality, only price. 

Danger of Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Splenda, Sweet N Low)

The Bitter Truth About NutraSweet (Aspartame) and Sucralose (Splenda)

“Aspartame (NutraSweet) appears to cause slow, silent damage in those unfortunate enough to not have immediate reactions and a reason to avoid it. It may take one year, five years, 10 years, or 40 years, but it seems to cause some reversible and some irreversible changes in health over long-term use. “Aspartame has a profound effect on mood and cognition….depressed mood, anxiety, dizziness, panic attacks, nausea, irritability, impairment of memory and concentration.”
Ralph Walton, M.D.

The testing of sucralose reveals that it can cause up to 40 percent shrinkage of the thymus: a gland that is the very foundation of our immune system. Sucralose also causes swelling of the liver and kidneys, and CALCIFICATION of the kidney. Note: if you experience kidney pain, cramping, or an irritated bladder after using sucralose in Splenda, stop use immediately.
Dr. Janet Starr Hull

“I have observed severe intellectual deterioration associated with the use of aspartame products. It was usually manifest as great difficulty in reading and writing, obvious problems with memory and grossly impaired orientation to time, place and person. Many reactions to aspartame were very serious including seizures and death. Other reactions reported included: Headaches/Migraines Dizziness Joint Pain Nausea Numbness Muscle spasms Weight gain Rashes Depression Fatigue Irritability Tachycardia Insomnia Vision Loss Hearing Loss Heart palpitations Breathing difficulties Anxiety attacks Slurred Speech Loss of taste Tinnitus Vertigo Memory loss”
H. J. Roberts, M.D.

To read more information on Danger of these products, please check the links below:


  1. Makinen KK (2000) Can the pentitol-hexitol theory explain the clinical observations made with xylitol? Medical Hypotheses 54(4): 603-613
  2. Makinen KK (1978) Biochemical principles of the use of xylitol in medicine and nutrition with special consideration of dental aspects. Birkhauser Verlag, Basel.
  3. Brunzell,JD (1978) Use of fructose, xylitol, or sorbitol as a sweetener in diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 1:223-230
  4. Talbot, JM and Fisher KD (1978) The need for special foods and sugar substitutes by individuals with diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Care 1: 231-240
  5. Makinen KK (1997) History, Safety and Dental Properties of xylitol. In “xylitol from A-Z”, ed. KK Makinen, A Suzuki and M. Fukudu, TP Japan press, Tokyo (in Japanese). Translated on website xylitol.org
  6. Cronin M, Gordon J, Reardon R and Balbo F (1994) Three clinical trials comparing xylitol- and sorbitol-containing chewing gums for their effect on supragingival plaque accumulation. J Clin Dent 5: 106-109
  7. Makinen KK, Bennett CA, Hujoel PP, Isokangas PJ, Isotupa KP and Pape PR (1995) xylitol chewing gums and caries rates: a 40-month cohort study. J Dent Res 74: 1904-1913
  8. Isokangas P (1987) xylitol chewing gum in caries protection. A longitudinal study in Finnish schoolchildren. Proc Finn Dent Soc 83(suppl 1): 1-117
  9. Makinen, KK (1992) Dietary prevention of dental caries by xylitol-clinical effectiveness and safety. J. App Nut 44: 16-28
  10. Kandelman D and Gagnoni G (1987) Effect of xylitol chewing gum on dental caries. J Dent Res 66(8): 1407-1411.
  11. Arends J, Christoffersen J and Schuthoff J (1984) Influence of xylitol on demineralisation of enamel. Caries Res 18: 296-301
  12. Steinberg LM, Odusola F and Mandel ID (1992) Remineralising potential, antiplaque and antigingivitis effects of xylitol and sorbitol sweetened gum. Clin Prev Dent 14: 31-34
  13. Smits MT and Arends J (1988) Influence of xylitol- and fluoride-containing toothpaste on the remineralisation of surface softened enamel defects in vivo. Caries Res 19: 528-535
  14. Soderling E, Alaraisanen L, Scheinen A and Makinen K K (1987) Effect of xylitol and sorbitol on polysaccharide production by and adhesive properties of Streptacoccus mutans. Caries Res 21: 109-116
  15. Knuttila M L and Makinen K (1975) Effect of xylitol on the growth and metabolism of Streptacoccus mutans. Caries Res 59: 177-189
  16. Hayes, C (2001) The effect of non-cariogenic sweeteners on the prevention of dental caries: A review of the evidence. J Dent Educ 65: 1106-1109
  17. Uhari M, Kontiokari T, Koskela M and Niemela M (1996) xylitol chewing gum in prevention of acute otitis media: double blind randomised trial. Br Med J 313: 1180-1184
  18. Soderling E, Isokangas P, Pienihakkinen K and Tenovuo J (2000) Influence of maternal xylitol consumption on acquisition of mutans streptococci by infants. J Dent Res 79(3): 882-887
  19. Isokangas P, Soderling E, Pienihakkinen K and Alanen P (2000) Occurrence of dental decay in children after maternal consumption of xylitol chewing gum, a follow up from 0 to 5 years of age J. Dent Res 79(11): 1885-1889
  20. Mattila PT,Svanberg MJ, Jamsa T and Knuuttila ML (2002) Improved bone biomechanical properties in xylitol-fed aged rats. Metabolism 51(1): 92-6
  21. Mattila PT, Svanberg MJ and Knuuttila ML (2001) Increased bone volume and bone mineral content in xylitol-fed aged rats. Gerontol 47(6): 300-5.
  22. Pauli, T, M Mattila, J Svanberg, P Pokka, et al. (1998) Dietary xylitol protects against weakening of bone biomechanical properties in ovariectomized rats. J.Nutr 128: 1811-1814.