Xylitol is an all-natural sugar alternative that tastes and looks like sugar but that
is where the similarities end. Our bodies produce Xylitol daily during normal metabolism.
Xylitol is one of a group of sugar substitutes known as polyols. Others in the same
group include sorbitol and maltitol, which have 6 carbon structures (and can be
metabolised by harmful bacteria). However, xylitol has a unique 5 carbon structure
which is metabolised only by friendly bacteria. Xylitol is a sweetener that occurs
naturally. It can be found in berries and other fruits, some vegetables and in the
woody fibres of birch tree bark and corn cobs. It is even produced by the human body
as a part of normal metabolism.
How is xylitol manufactured?
Where was xylitol discovered?
Xylitol was discovered almost simultaneously by German and French chemists
in the late 19th century. In the Soviet Union it has been used for decades
as a sweetener for diabetics, and in Germany in solutions for intravenous
feeding. In China, xylitol has been used for various medical purposes. It
is now used in over 40 countries as a safe, natural and healthy alternative
sweetener. It has been approved by FDA in the USA for over 25 years.
Xylitol derives its name from xylan, meaning wood, and is manufactured from natural xylan-rich
sources (biomass) such as birch tree bark, and corn fibre. Wood sugar (xylose) is extracted
from the biomass, and the liquid wood sugar is then converted to pure crystalline xylitol.
How is xylitol metabolised in the body?
Dietary xylitol is easily metabolised by the body. A small portion is slowly absorbed through
the small intestine and carried in the portal blood supply to the liver, where it is converted
to glucose. Because of the slowness of absorption, the majority of xylitol (approximately ¾ of
that consumed) moves down to the lower intestine, There it is metabolised by friendly bacteria
to short-chain fatty acids, which are mostly returned to the liver for oxidation, providing
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