Xylitol: Is it Healthful or Harmful?
January 29, 2014
By Ciara Polonsky
Is Juice Fasting a Healthy Detox Method?
It looks and tastes like ordinary table sugar. So how is xylitol different?

Xylitol is contained naturally in plants, fruits and vegetables. It is extracted most commonly from corn or birch bark to create the processed white crystalline sweetener form that we see packaged on our health food store shelves.

Also seen on labels as E967, Xylitol can be bought as granules, or found added into oral care products and confectionary.

It is termed a non-nutritive sweetener because it does not contribute any nutritional value, as it is a sugar alcohol that passes through our body and is not metabolised or absorbed.

10 health benefits of Xylitol

1. Xylitol contains dramatically fewer calories than table sugar, by approximately 40%, and less carbohydrates, making it a good option in weight loss.

2. Xylitol has antibacterial effects, inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause plaque and dental cavities.

3. New mothers who chew gum containing Xylitol may help reduce their child's exposure to cavity-causing bacteria, and decrease their likelihood of developing cavities.

4. Xylitol may offer protection against gum disease, shown through preliminary studies.

5. Xylitol in chewing gum has been effective in reducing the risk of middle ear infections in children by 40 per cent.

6. With a very low glycaemic index of 7, Xylitol is unlikely to raise blood sugar and insulin levels, making it diabetic friendly.

7. For this reason Xylitol can also be used safely if you have a yeast infection, and may aid in eradicating Candida and reduce associated symptoms of headaches and nausea.

8. Xylitol is used as a fuel by the beneficial bacteria that live in our large intestines, helping gut function and strengthening the immune system.

9. Xylitol binds with and increases the absorption of calcium, contributing to remineralisation of tooth enamel and an increase in bone density, also making it potentially effective in preventing osteoporosis.

10. Xylitol has no known toxicity or carcinogenicity in humans, and is considered completely safe by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.

The things to watch out for with Xylitol

1. There are usually warnings on products containing Xylitol of a potential 'laxative effect'. Too much Xylitol too quickly may cause temporary bloating, flatulence and diarrhoea. Each person will have a different threshold, and the body will adapt to larger quantities if taken regularly.

2. Be careful not to overload on Xylitol. Therapeutic benefits have been found at daily divided doses from 4 grams to 10 grams. As a guide, one piece of chewing gum contains one gram of Xylitol, and one teaspoon of granules equals 4 grams of Xylitol.

3. While it has been safely approved for human consumption, it has been found harmful and potentially fatal to dogs. This is likely due to the way it is slowly absorbed into their gums and bloodstream.

4. Being a sugar alcohol (polyol), it should be avoided by if you are fructose intolerant or on a FODMAP diet.

5. There is a possibility that some corn-derived Xylitol is being genetically modified. Do your research for organic varieties or look for birch Xylitol.

The verdict on Xylitol

It is clear that Xylitol can benefit several areas of the body in the long term. If it is introduced slowly, then it should be well tolerated in most people. You will certainly know if you've overdone it, by the symptoms described above.

It is definitely the better option when compared with table sugar or artificial sweeteners. However there are plenty of other sweetener options that don't have these side effects and aren't derived from potentially genetically modified corn or sugar cane.

So if you decide to give Xylitol a go, and make up your own mind, start off slowly, perhaps with a teaspoon in your tea or coffee. If you try it and it's not for you, stevia is a similar natural alternative.


Ciara Polonsky holds a Bachelor of Health Science and Nutritional Medicine. She likes to get creative with whole and super foods in the kitchen, and has a confessed love of fitness and Pilates especially. You can contact her via email at
"Xylitol is extracted most commonly from corn or birch bark to create the processed white crystalline sweetener form that we see packaged on our health food store shelves."