Xylitol, which is the principle sugar found in plums, cherries and most berries, has been shown to effectively prevent tooth decay by acting as an antibacterial agent against organisms that cause cavities.
Bacteria that feed off xylitol become unable to stick to teeth and cause rotting. This recent study in the Archives of Oral Biology is considered definitive because it simulated all the conditions of the mouth and showed that a small amount of xylitol added to saliva dramatically reduced levels of tooth rotting bacteria. Previous studies have reported benefit from xylitol chewing gum or lozenges used in school-age children with permanent teeth. Also, a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine in July, gave young children age 9 to 15 months a xylitol syrup two or three times a day, versus placebo over a ten month period. The incidence of tooth decay was more than halved. “Our results suggest that exposure to xylitol (8 grams per day) in a twice-daily topical oral syrup during primary tooth eruption could prevent up to 70 percent of decayed teeth,” the authors write.
“Dividing the 8 grams into three doses did not increase the effectiveness of the treatment. These results provide evidence for the first time (to our knowledge) that xylitol is effective for the prevention of decay in primary teeth of toddlers.”
However, this recent study suggests that you need much less for a bacteria reducing effect - perhaps one 5 gram serving a day. Xylitol contains 40 per cent less calories than conventional sugar, is sweeter than most other sugar substitutes but unlike artificial sweeteners such as aspartame or saccharin and it doesn’t contain any unnatural chemicals or have an unwanted aftertaste. Xylitol is also excellent because it has a very low GL compared to regular sugar or fructose. You’d have to eat nine whole spoons of xylitol to achieve the same effect on your blood sugar as just one spoon of regular sugar. It has half the glycemic load (GL) of fructose (the sugar found in fruit) and tastes as good as sugar, unlike some natural sugar alternatives such as stevia, which I find taste strange. On top of all this, it has none of the tooth decaying downsides of sugar. Unlike normal white sugar however, xylitol is metabolised differently in your body and won’t raise your blood sugar levels in the same way.
Its low glycemic load (GL) of 2 won’t give you those big highs and lows – which can cause weight gain and unstable energy that you get from sugar.
Guilt Free Sweet Treats
You can eat xylitol just as you would regular sugar. I sometimes sprinkle a little over berries and add it to drinks. And unlike other sweeteners which break down with heat, xylitol can be used for cooking. Use it in almost any recipe that calls for sugar (the substitution is 1:1). It’s a great guilt-free sweetener for cereals, baking and puddings. But since yeast cannot metabolise it, it is not recommended for yeast bread recipes.
A good value for money brand is Xylitol Sachets (50 x 5g). Each sachet gives 5 grams of xylitol, which is only 0.5GLs. Adding that to a drink, for example, and swish around the mouth, would expose bacteria to its effects.