Apr 8, 2013

Hidden Dangers of Xylitol

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is slowly gaining popularity as a healthy substitute for sugar. It is relatively more expensive than other artificial sweeteners available on the market. Xylitol is extracted from berries, vegetables, corn cobs, birch and mushrooms.

Dentists recommend xylitol as a sugar substitute as it does not cause tooth decay and gum diseases compared to other sweeteners. Xylitol differs to natural sugars because it contains only five carbon atoms in its molecular structure compared to sugar which has six. Scientific research has proven that consuming up to 50 grams of xylitol is safe per day. However, consuming more than this amount, can lead to toxic effects on the body. This article discusses the dangers of consuming more than 50 grams of xylitol per day.

Xylitol can be found in chewing gum, sweets, chocolate, cookies, as a powder and in tablet form. Some toothpaste and mouth wash brands also use it because of its innate bacterial fighting properties. Xylitol tastes very similar to sugar. If you are using xylitol as a sweetener in any of these forms, you need to be aware of how much you are consuming each day in your diet. Although the recommended safe level of consumption is 50 grams, each individual may suffer side effects after consuming much less. Here are the side effects you need to be aware of.

Diarrhea and Bloating

Like eating too much fruit, xylitol can cause diarrhea and bloating. It acts as a laxative and can cause distention of the abdomen and abdominal cramps and pain. It can also cause nausea and vomiting. It is the sugar alcohols in xylitol which are similar to fructose that can have a laxative effect.


Scientists are concerned that consuming high amounts of xylitol over extended periods can cause tumors. Children should not consume more than 20 grams per day. Parents need to be aware of xylitol added to sweets, chewing gum, chocolate and cookies that they may be feeding their children daily.


Excessive amounts of xylitol can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. The sugar alcohols in xylitol may destabilize blood sugar levels in both healthy individuals and those that have been diagnosed with diabetes. Although xylitol is a healthy substitute for sugar to be used by diabetics, excessive amounts can cause hyperglycemia.

Weight gain

Although xylitol only has 2.6 calories per gram, consumption of excessive amounts can lead to weight gain. People who are dieting and using xylitol as a substitute for sugar need to monitor their intake of xylitol, as the calories quickly add up and excessive intake can be toxic.

Allergic Reaction

Allergic reactions are rare but some individuals have been reported to have experienced hives, rashes, itchy skin, wheezing, mouth sores and or swelling of the mouth and throat. Severe allergic responses can be fatal if not treated quickly.

In conclusion, xylitol is safe to consume in moderation. As a rough guide, consuming one piece of chewing gum sweetened with xylitol contains 0.7 to 1 gram. Three teaspoon of xylitol sugar substitute contains 15 grams. It is easy to see that keeping your intake down to less than 50grams per day would require careful monitoring.

Xylitol is also terminally toxic to dogs, so ensure you keep it away from pets. Forty countries around the world have approved xylitol for consumption. If you are a diabetic wishing to substitute sugar for xylitol, it is recommended that you consult with your doctor first. Many products contain traces of xylitol, so when monitoring your intake be sure to read labels carefully. Xylitol, although a naturally occurring substance, it does have side effects which we all should be aware of.


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