Sugar substitutes have risen in popularity as more people discover how processed and refined sugars can harm our health. One of the most popular alternatives to added sugar is xylitol. It tastes just like sugar, but with fewer calories and some potential health benefits.
Chemists know xylitol as a "sugar alcohol." Sugar alcohols are a combination of sugar and alcohol molecules. Contrary to popular belief, these are not calorie-free sweeteners. However, fruits and vegetables are the source of these sugars, which results in an impressively low sugar content.
According to Healthline, there are 8 types of sugar alcohols that are safe for consumption. Among these, xylitol is the most widely used in the food industry. Products such as oral care goods, sugar-free gums, and diabetic-friendly candies and mints often contain xylitol.
Our mouths are full of good and bad bacteria. One strand of bacteria, Streptococcus mutans, is a major contributor in the development of cavities, according to the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association (ODHA). Chewing sugar-free gum that contains xylitol helps to slow the growth of this bacteria. It also helps to neutralize acids that cause unwanted tooth decay.
Xylitol helps prevent tooth decay and high blood sugar levels, unlike added sugars that can encourage them. It also has a strong anti-plaque effect on teeth, and can even reduce gingival inflammation.
In short, when you consume xylitol you are essentially starving out bad bacteria. Chewing gum with xylitol helps remove acid and absorb calcium to strengthen tooth enamel, according to field experts.
Using xylitol instead of sugar can provide other health advantages as well. Xylitol has a low glycemic index (GI) of 7. (The glycemic index measures how fast your blood sugar increases after eating.) In comparison, sugar has a GI of 60-70. Therefore, xylitol can be an excellent sugar alternative for those affected by diabetes, prediabetes, obesity, or other related health problems.
While xylitol may have some benefits for your dental and overall health, it can be harmful for dogs. Be sure to keep any products containing this sugar alcohol out of reach of pets. If you believe your dog has ingested xylitol, contact your veterinarian immediately.
To make an appointment at Midlothian Dental Center, please give us a call today at (804) 455-8221!