Alternatives to sugar – xylitol

Excessive sugar consumption is one of the main causes of obesity and associated chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. In an attempt to reduce sugar consumption, sweetening alternatives have gained popularity, and xylitol is one of them.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that can be used instead of sugar, but without the negative health effects.

What is xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, also known as xylitol, which is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, as well as birch bark and other plant sources. Xylitol tastes sweet, similar to sugar, but has about 40% fewer calories and a much lower glycemic index than sugar.

This means that xylitol has a reduced impact on blood sugar levels and can be a healthier alternative for diabetics and anyone looking to reduce their sugar intake.

Benefits of xylitol consumption

In addition to being low in calories and having a low glycemic index, xylitol has other benefits for our health.

For example, studies have shown that xylitol can help prevent tooth decay.

This is because the acid-producing bacteria that erode tooth enamel cannot metabolize xylitol as efficiently as sugar, so bacterial growth is inhibited.

Xylitol may also help prevent urinary tract infections and Candida.

Xylitol can be used in a similar way to sugar, as it is a sugar substitute. It is available in powder or crystal form, as well as in confectionery and sugar-free chewing gum.

In general, xylitol can be an excellent substitute for sugar and can benefit our health.

In maintaining good oral hygiene, with minimal risk of carious disease, sugar consumption plays a particularly important role.

Enamel and dentin are hard dental tissues that protect the pulp chamber from bacterial attack and are able to resist many pathogens.

Regular consumption of sugars, especially found in small snacks between main meals, is largely responsible for the development of caries.


The sugar that reaches the oral cavity is broken down by resident bacteria in the oral flora, resulting in the release of acids.

The acidic substances progressively dissolve dental hard tissues.

By adding fluoride, however, remineralization of damaged tissues can also occur.

Saliva is of great help in this respect, helping to wash away sugar residues but also transporting minerals to repair the damaged structure.

When the balance between destruction caused by acid attack and remineralization of hard structures is tilted in favor of the former, mineral dissolution takes precedence and enamel and dentine are damaged.

Local structures can no longer control the acid attack and demineralization will have the following stages:

  • Enamel demineralization – remineralization of enamel can still be achieved in the early stages, primarily by discontinuing sugar consumption.

  • Demineralization also affects dentine – the process is irreversible. At this stage, the host mechanisms are overwhelmed by the intensity of the acid attack and restoration of the mineral structure is virtually impossible. If dissolution of hard tissues occurs rapidly, the pathological process will soon reach the vicinity of the pulp chamber, with consequences for its sensitivity. Usually the patient presents to the dentist’s office when he or she experiences cold, sweet or, in more serious cases, even spontaneous sensitivity.

Xylitol is a natural sweetener which, over the years, studies have shown to be a protective agent against caries.

It has the same ability to sweeten food as sugar and can be used in the same way as sugar.

Xylitol has the property of inhibiting bacterial growth and multiplication. Bacteria are known to use sugar to grow.

On the other hand, xylitol is not recognized by the micro-organism as a growth agent, so it does not contribute to bacterial multiplication.

Without a food source, bacteria quickly lose their pathogenic potential and the survival rate in the oral cavity also decreases.

Xylitol is mainly found in chewing gums.

It is good for patients to educate themselves about the components that go into the foods they eat.

In some organic food shops, foods can be found in which sugar has been completely replaced by xylitol.

However, it is advisable to be cautious when consuming chewing gums containing xylitol as this sweetener dissolves more slowly in the digestive system and can have a laxative effect in case of overdose.

The optimal consumption of chewing gum is 2-3 chewing gum lozenges per day, chewed for about 5-10 minutes. At these amounts and frequencies, the risk of side effects is zero.

People with increased tooth decay susceptibility may benefit from chewing gum or other foods containing xylitol.


In conclusion, xylitol can be an excellent alternative to sugar consumption, especially for people who want to reduce their sugar intake from their diet. Xylitol has a similar sweet taste to sugar, but has fewer calories and a much lower glycemic index

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