Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar that is popularly used as a sugar substitute by many individuals. It is a type of sugar alcohol that is found in many fruits and vegetables. Commonly, xylitol is extracted from the birch tree, but it is also obtained from mushrooms, berries, oats, and sweetcorn (maize) husks. Xylitol is also known by other names, is the sweetest of all the sugar alcohols and is effective against bacteria that cause tooth decay.
Origin and History of Xylitol
Xylitol is obtained from the Greek word ‘xylon’, which is translated as wood. The suffix ‘-itol’ added to it signifies that it is a sugar alcohol – although it is not a sugar nor an alcohol. In the nineteenth century, French and German scientists discovered xylitol. Gradually, it became popular in Europe as an alternative to table sugar. In the 1970s, chemists from Finland explored the benefits of xylitol for dental care.
In the late 20th century, the United States started manufacturing granular xylitol using beet plants. Today, xylitol is obtained from many sources, including sweetcorn husks. Xylitol has quite a long shelf life, so buying bulk xylitol is a great idea if you are looking to replace table sugar with xylitol in your daily diet. However, it is a good idea to buy xylitol that is manufactured by a trusted UK brand to achieve maximum benefits.
Extraction of Xylitol
Polysaccharides that are rich in xylose are obtained from hardwoods or sweetcorn (maize). These polysaccharides are subjected to various treatments and hydrolyzed. Previously, the mixture obtained was purified and hydrogenated. This procedure of extracting xylitol was time-consuming, ineffective, and expensive. Moreover, it took a longer time for extraction. Nowadays, with the increasing demand for xylitol, innovative and more effective technologies can be used for extraction.
Chemical Composition of Xylitol
Xylitol is a five carbon sugar alcohol, whereas other sugars are six carbon compounds. Because of its molecular structure, xylitol is also known as a polyol. Sugar alcohols are neither alcohols nor sugars. Actually, they are carbohydrates that have a chemical structure partially resembling both alcohol and sugar. Since xylitol is partially absorbed and metabolised by the body, it contributes less calories to the body. Xylitol is just as sweet as sugar, but has 40% fewer calories. One teaspoon of xylitol approximately contains 9.5 calories. As compared to sugar that contains four grams of carbohydrates per teaspoon, xylitol contains fewer carbohydrates.
Uses of Xylitol
The unique molecular structure of xylitol prevents certain bacteria in the mouth from breaking it down for food. Bacteria obtain energy from food. In the absence of food, they cannot grow and create the acid that is harmful to teeth. Thus, xylitol does not cause dental cavities and can even prevent teeth from further decay. Studies have indicated such as strong dental benefits that now many dentists recommend its use.
Xylitol is a popular ingredient found in chewing gum, mints, toothpastes, and dental medicines that aim to preserve oral hygiene.
It is a great alternative for fighting bad breath and certain dental problems. Xylitol provides sweetness like that of regular sugar, but without any unpleasant aftertaste.