If you are a health enthusiast like me, you might have noticed the ingredient Xylitol popping up everywhere lately; from sugar free chocolate to chewing gum. But what exactly is it? Checkout my guide to the newest sweetener below.
What is it?
Xyltiol is a natural sweetner; extracted from birch wood. Unlike most sweetners that are artificial (such as Aspartame), Xylitol is often found in fruit and is known for it's medicinal properties.
Why has it become more popular?
Xylitol has actually been around for over one hundred years- it was first used in the 1900s by Finland (given that so much of the country is surrounded by forest; they had ample supplies!) It was mainly used for a general sugar substitute during the rationing that came with WW2 but a bit later in the seventies, Scientist clocked on to it's many benefits. It came into Britain much later; when consumers were looking for natural sweeteners to replace the many man-made artifical ones on the market. Brands have been quick to catch on to the benefits of Xylitol- since consumers are on the hunt for natural products and it also means they can lower or reduce altogether the amount of sugar in their products.
Does it have any benefits?
Yes! Unlike most sweeteners that are actually linked to a whole host of health problems (Aspartame in particular has been linked from everything from cancer to digestion problems),
Xylitol actually has a whole range of benefits; particularly in relation to your teeth. Dentists in Sweden and Finland have been giving it young children for years (in the form of a sweet) to try to prevent tooth decay. Now British dentists are getting in on the act.Matthew Lloyd, a dentist (who has also co-founder a Xylitol based toothpaste-WhiteWash Laboratories and Nano) explained: "Naturally occurring Xylitol inhibits growth of bacteria which prevents acid attacks so it provides excellent dental health benefits. When using a xylitol enhanced fluoride toothpaste as part of a daily routine it helps restore minerals to the teeth. When creating the Nano range, I made sure that xylitol was a key ingredient within the whole range so customers will benefit from enhanced protection.It's one of those ingredients that people read on the back of a pack, don't necessarily recognise and because of its scientific name automatically assume it's bad - when in fact it's the complete opposite!"
It's also popular with dieters- since it contains less calories than sugar (one teaspoon contains 9.6 calories compared the 15 per teaspoon of the white stuff). It's also extremely safe for use with diabetics- meaning it's a popular choice for sugar free chocolate brands (such as Plamil who launched a sugar free, dairy free chocolate using Xylitol)
Is it too good to be true?
Not really- there are lots of benefits to Xylitol and at the moment, very few proven problems when compared to other sweetners on the market. If consumed in extremely large amounts, it can cause diarhea and it's not safe for dogs- so don't get sharing your chocolate bar with your pet pooch and you should be fine!
Given the staggering amount our NHS currently spends on treating teeth decay in young children, Xylitol may soon be a mass market solution to dramatically dropping these rates and saving our country lots of money in the long run.
Jenna Farmer blogs over at www.abalancedbelly.co.uk