Nutrition

What is Xylitol?


Xylitol formula

Xylitol is a five-carbon polyalcohol, pentitol, which is widely distributed in nature. Most fruits, berries and plants contain xylitol.
Pure xylitol is a white crystalline substance that looks and tastes like sugar. On food labels, xylitol is classified broadly as a carbohydrate and more narrowly as a polyol. Because xylitol is only slowly absorbed and partially utilized, a reduced calorie claim is allowed: 2.4 calories per gram or 40% less than other carbohydrates.

How Xylitol Fights Tooth Decay
When carbohydrate or sugars are consumed acid is produced in the mouth and the pH drops rapidly below pH 5.7, causing demineralization of tooth enamel and potential cavities. Since xylitol is a five-carbon polyol, oral bacteria do not metabolize it and therefore no acid is produced. When xylitol products are used the pH balance in the oral cavity is quickly returned to a safe level above pH 5.7, minimizing the erosion of enamel and enhancing the remineralization process. The pleasant sweetness also stimulates saliva flow, which helps to rinse away excess sugar residues and neutralize any acids that have been formed.
When xylitol is consumed habitually for several months, the mutans streptococci are shed from plaque to the saliva. Although high numbers may still be found in saliva, they are less virulent and do not adhere as tightly to the teeth, and this means acid attack is not occurring at the tooth surface.
Xylitol can also be used in the diet of diabetic subjects, because it is slowly absorbed, its initial metabolic steps are independent of insulin, and it does not cause rapid changes in blood glucose concentration.
In conclusion, xylitol is both non-cariogenic in that it does not contribute to caries formation and is cariostatic because it prevents or reduces the incidence of new caries. Xylitol actually reduces the amount of plaque and the number of mutans streptococci in plaque. No other sugar substitute has been shown to function in this way.

Where can I find Xylitol?
For example in Waitrose or Holland and Barrett.