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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
Xylitol has no aftertaste at all. It has a nearly identical taste to sugar.
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.
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.
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).
Xylitol behaves the same as table sugar in cooking and baking, however sometimes the sweetness has to be adjusted depending on the recipe.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Perfect Sweet™ xylitol cannot be used to make hard candy, due to its inability to caramelize.
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.
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.
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.)
Xylitol has been analysed in the United States and Europe as having 2.4 kcal per gram, which is 40% less than table sugar.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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).
Several animal studies have shown increased bone strength, density and mineral content after dietary xylitol consumption (20,21,22).
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).
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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: