Xylitol: Not as Sweet As It’s Cracked Up to Be

Xylitol: Not as Sweet As It’s Cracked Up to Be

December 8, 2012

Xylitol is truly the darling of sugar substitutes today. The American Dietetic Association touts use of xylitol as offering health benefits such as reduced glycemic response as compared with sucrose, increased absorption of B vitamins and calcium, and even a reduction in dental caries risk.

Consequently, people with blood sugar issues are flocking to processed foods containing xylitol as a way to satisfy that sweet tooth without the downside of exacerbating the risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome:  heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Even within the healthfood community, xylitol is almost universally considered a healthy substitute for sugar in particular because it doesn’t directly contribute toward the growth of intestinal yeasts aka Candida.

Have you noticed that the check out aisles at healthfood stores are typically loaded with chocolates and other sweets containing at least some xylitol?   The truth is that I have yet to talk with any healthy conscious person who suggests to me any downside to using xylitol other than the potential for intestinal cramps if you get too much.

Xylitol is Naturally Found in Nature

Xylitol is, after all, a naturally occurring substance.  Manufacturers of xylitol market it as derived from xylan, which is found in the fibers of many plants including berries, oats, beets, sugar cane and birch. Sounds pretty harmless.

The FDA has even granted xylitol GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status. You can’t get any safer than that, right?

How Xylitol is Manufactured

While it is true that xylitol is a naturally occurring substance, manufactured xylitol is another matter entirely.   Commercially available xylitol is produced by the industrialized process of sugar hydrogenation.   In order to hydrogenate anything, a catalyst is needed, and in the case of xylitol, Raney nickel is used which is a powdered nickel-aluminum alloy.

Can we say heavy metal residue?  Xylitol doesn’t seem quite so warm and fuzzy anymore, does it?

While there is currently no literature on any detrimental health effects of consuming hydrogenated sugar, it is important to note that hydrogenated fats and oils were used for many years before the very damaging effects to health became widely known.

Given the violent industrialized process that is required to produce a hydrogenated sugar like xylitol, it would seem wise to avoid it based on the very poor track record of hydrogenated foods in general! (Read Full Article)

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