Xylitol: What is it? History, Manufacture, Uses, Benefits, Warnings, Contraindications and Precautions

It is a sweetener that appears to be winning the popularity contest among consumers’ desire to be caloric-free.

The claims confirm that it is “all natural,” safe for diabetics, and that the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry supports the use of xylitol for oral health benefits.

But is xylitol good for you and should it be classified as a healthy sweetener? Depending on your health circumstances, you may want to avoid intake when possible or otherwise limit your daily intake.

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol known as a polyol and categorized alongside other popular sweeteners you may have heard of, including sorbitol, mannitol, lactiol, and maltiol.

Such sweeteners are created in a process known as “hydrogenation,” a process you’ve probably already heard of in many processed foods that are unhealthy.

Although xylitol can be found naturally in small concentrations in foods such as berries, cauliflower, and plums, it is typically prepared from its original form of xylose .

The compounds that make up xylose are chemically exchanged for oxygen and hydrogen, resulting in a low-glycemic sweetener.

This fact that xylitol is found in nature and is derived from a natural product allows government authorities to regulate the labeling requirements of food manufacturers.

Numerous studies report that this sugar alcohol has no effect on blood glucose levels and, in fact, it breaks down in a process that is not dependent on insulin secretion.

Xylitol cannot be fully digested or absorbed from the human gastrointestinal tract and up to 20% of this compound is shown to be excreted in the urine.

In fact, it is understood that only 50% of this sugar alcohol is absorbed by the small intestine, raising concerns that this sweetener may have toxic effects by accumulation in the liver.

What is the history of xylitol?

Around 1890, Fisher and Stahe in Germany and Betrand in France isolated the 5-carbon sugar, xylitol.

During World War II, the Scandinavian countries experienced a sugar shortage, leading to the first widespread use of xylitol.

After the war, dental professionals in this area began to notice an improvement in the oral health of their patients.

In the 1960s, scientists linked this improvement to the use of xylitol, and health professionals began to ask “what is the effect of xylitol on the human body”?

For the next 30 years, this natural sweetener continued to gain popularity around the world. In the 1990s, scientists began to notice the effect of xylitol on upper respiratory health.

Now, the profound benefits of xylitol are backed by thousands of clinical studies conducted around the world.

How is xylitol made?

It is true that xylitol is a natural substance. However, manufactured xylitol is another matter entirely. Food manufacturers produce it using the industrialized sugar hydrogenation process.

To hydrogenate anything, you need a catalyst. In this case, Raney nickel is used, which is a powdered nickel-aluminum alloy.

This poses the risk of heavy metal residues and contamination. Nickel, by the way, is a recognized carcinogen and aluminum is associated with the development of dementia.

Heavy metals in the body are very difficult to remove with frequent use of an infrared sauna, probably a good idea.

There is currently no literature on the detrimental health effects of consuming hydrogenated sugar.

However, food manufacturers used widely used hydrogenated fats for decades before the damaging effects on cardiovascular health became widely known.

Given the violent industrialized process that is required to produce a hydrogenated sugar like xylitol, it seems prudent to avoid it based on the very poor track record of hydrogenated foods in general.

Most of the xylitol comes from GMO corn

While it is true that xylitol can be derived from the xylan of birch trees, xylan is also found in the ears of corn. It is much cheaper to use corn instead of birch bark to get the xylitol, and what do you think manufacturers prefer? Corn of course.

Therefore, unless the label of a product containing xylitol specifically states that it comes from birch or another non-GMO source, the xylitol most likely comes from genetically modified corn or possibly GMO sugar beets.

This is the same problem as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and beet white sugar, which are widely used in sodas and sports drinks by food manufacturers.

You get a dose of GMOs with every sip! More on the dangers of GMOs including sterility and stomach openings in the link provided.

What is the benefit of xylitol?

Xylitol was originally used as a natural alternative to sugar with its 1: 1 sweetness ratio. It has virtually no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. It also has 40% fewer calories than sugar.

Xylitol also moistens and soothes the skin by pulling water onto skin surfaces. One of the greatest benefits of xylitol.

It is how it interacts with bacteria. This is twofold. First of all, xylitol is not fermentable, which means that bacteria cannot use it in their metabolic processes. This makes bacteria unable to thrive or produce their by-products, harmful acids.

Second, xylitol has a non-stick quality. This unique feature prevents bacteria from adhering to cell tissue. Because bacteria must adhere to tissue for it to flourish, xylitol can reduce its effect without using harmful chemicals or medications.

What is xylitol used for?

Due to these unique benefits, xylitol can be used in a number of ways. People battling diabetes have used xylitol as a sugar-free sweetener.

Because it moisturizes and soothes, it is used to help with dry sinus and nasal passages. The hydration process, which draws water to the cell surface, also helps rid the body of allergens and other commonly inhaled pollutants.

This results in reduced symptoms from allergens or pollutants. Similarly, when xylitol is used in a saline nasal spray, it can work against the bacteria you breathe in, resulting in a cleaner, healthier upper respiratory system.

The most documented and researched use of xylitol is in oral health. Due to xylitol’s ability to inhibit the adherence of bacteria, it helps promote oral health and initiate the remineralization process.

Specific benefits

Oral health

Xylitol is largely found in oral hygiene products including toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewing gums, and mints, and is intended to promote therapeutic benefits for oral health.


If we still don’t fully understand where all the components of this sugar alcohol are broken down and absorbed in the body, why has it gained popularity? It contains antimicrobial defenses against infectious bacteria, such as pneumococcus which is known to cause pneumonia and meningitis.

It also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria probably causing a toxic effect within the encapsulated bacteria.

To obtain the antimicrobial benefits of sugar alcohol, it is recommended to consume products that contain pure xylitol without any other added sweeteners or in combination with foods that contain sweeteners.

The presence of other sugars and sugar substitutes inhibits their ability to break down and prevent the growth of bacteria.


The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies acetaldehyde as a highly toxic Class 1 carcinogen.

In other words, acetaldehyde is a compound sufficiently evidenced to be labeled as causing cancer in humans.

This mutagenic product results from the fermentation of alcohol that harmful bacteria in the mouth can produce in large quantities. When ethanol found in alcohol mixes with saliva, a reaction occurs to create acetaldehyde.

Xylitol has been shown to inhibit the production of acetaldehyde by microbes during the fermentation process.

It can even completely eliminate this carcinogenic activity for some bacterial strains.

The concentrations of this sugar alcohol used in these studies support that this anticancer property can be obtained by chewing xylitol-sweetened gum often over the course of a single day.

Lung cancer therapy

A recent study recently conducted an experimental treatment with the effects of xylitol on cancer cells.

What the researchers found is that this sugar alcohol may actually have therapeutic benefits in treating lung cancer.

It was shown to inhibit the cell proliferation of specific lung cancer cells and to allow the natural destruction of cancer cells, a process known as autophagy.

Warnings for the consumption of xylitol

Xylitol may sound like the perfect sweetener suitable for consumption by all individuals, but it doesn’t come without pitfalls.

Unfortunately, conflicting evidence confirms whether or not xylitol is a good sweetener because long-term studies are limited to assessing its health effects.

Therefore, if you choose to use it, make sure it is moderately and therapeutically (not as food). Also make sure it doesn’t come from a GMO source like corn!

Potential for metabolic disturbance

As mentioned above, xylitol is not completely absorbed from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Therefore, this sugar alcohol is likely to accumulate in the liver and can have toxic consequences when used in large amounts for prolonged periods and can lead to metabolic disorders.

Gastrointestinal discomfort

Xylitol belongs to a class of fermentable carbohydrates called polyols. A large amount of xylitol is passed into the colon and is fermented by bacteria.

The microflora here uses the sweetener to produce fatty acids, as well as hydrogen and methane gas. As a result, these gases are associated with gas, abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.

Evidence suggests that more than 10 grams of sugar alcohols per day can cause these GI symptoms that can be easily consumed without knowing it due to their increased presence on products but not on labels.

As a result, people with gastrointestinal problems sensitive to fermentable sugars should avoid all sugar alcohols.

People with intestinal complications, such as irritable bowel syndrome, small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), and Crohn’s disease, may experience increased GI disturbances exacerbated by sugar alcohols.


The foods you eat with xylitol and various nutritional components of foods that contain this sugar alcohol can affect your ability to absorb each component.

Ingesting sugar alcohols can limit the ability of other nutrients such as fats and carbohydrates to be properly metabolized.

Clinical trials have also shown that the consumption of sugar alcohols can cause an appetite dysregulation that results in a lack of satiety and an overall increase in fat consumption.


Together, sugar alcohols can interact with medications. Especially those medications used by diabetics to control weight should limit the consumption of xylitol.

Caution for pet owners

Too many cases of dogs ingesting foods containing xylitol have left pet owners with difficult lessons to learn.

The amount of this sugar alcohol found in a few cookies, a pack of gum, and even English muffins is enough of the compound to cause severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and life-threatening liver failure in your best friend. men.


Although xylitol is a healthier alternative to sugar and high-fructose products like agave, xylitol is best in small amounts, even in the healthiest of people.

Disclaimer: The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or any other medical body.

We do not intend to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health condition. Information is shared for educational purposes only.