Xylitol, The Sugar Substitute with Health Benefits?

Updated: October 20, 2022

xylitol

We know that too much sugar causes a host of problems throughout your body. It’s best to limit sugar intake wherever possible.

But we’re excited to tell you about a natural sugar that’s handled surprisingly well by your body. In fact, it’s the only sugar known to have a head-to-toe list of health benefits.

What is Xylitol?

Xylitol, pronounced zi-li-tol, is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol found in small amounts in fruits, vegetables, mushrooms and fibrous portions of some plants.

Contrary to the term, a sugar alcohol is neither a sugar, nor an alcohol, but rather a molecule derived from a sugar. But due to its structure, it doesn’t yield the same amount of calories, nor elevate blood glucose levels like sugar does. Because of this, many sugar alcohols including xylitol, are used as natural sugar alternatives in products.

As mentioned, xylitol is found in small amounts in fruits and vegetables and can be sourced from berries, oats, and mushrooms.

However, the amounts are insignificant for food, gum and supplement companies to use. So instead they tend to source xylitol from either corn husks, the fibrous remains of sugar cane harvesting and/or hardwood trees, namely birch, as xylan.

4 Unexpected Xylitol Benefits

Sugar is associated with weight gain, inflammation, cavities and an ever-growing list of health woes.

Contrarily, xylitol has been shown to have health benefits, making it a viable swap for sugar in some instances.

Fewer Calories

Xylitol has 40% fewer calories than regular sugar has. While regular table sugar has 4 calories per gram, xylitol only has 2.4 calories.

In other words, a teaspoon of table sugar contains 16 calories compared to a teaspoon of xylitol has 9.6 calories. That 40% reduction in calories may not seem like a lot, but when you consider the average American consumes 130 pounds or more of added sugar per year, it could make a big difference.

Doesn’t Spike Blood Glucose

The most notable benefit of xylitol may be that it doesn’t seem to cause the same spike in blood glucose levels, and consequently insulin levels, as sugar does because of its chemical structure. This is why xylitol is found in many low-carb, no-carb or reduced-sugar products and suggested as a sugar alternative to those with diabetes or other metabolic issue related to carbohydrate metabolism.

Reduces Dental Decay and Cavities

In stark contrast to sugar, xylitol has surprisingly been shown to reduce dental decay and cavities. Again, because of its structure, pathogenic (bad) bacteria in the mouth that cause cavities can’t digest it and thus they don’t thrive on it. In fact, the bad bacteria consumes xylitol (not knowing it can’t digest it) and ultimately starves and ‘dies’. The good news is that your healthy bacteria doesn’t seem to be affected by xylitol. This, in turn, leads to healthy bacteria surviving, bad bacteria dying and cavities prevented. Studies have shown that replacing sugar with xylitol or adding it on top of your diet can reduce tooth decay and cavities by as much as 30-85%!

Boosts Collagen Production

This will perk you and your skin up if you’re worried about the appearance of aging: xylitol has been shown to boost collagen production.

Collagen is a naturally occurring protein found in skin associated with plump, youthful appearance. You’ve probably heard this term many times in beauty product and procedure commercials because as we get older, the body produces less collagen. Attempting to dip into the fountain of youth, beauty companies add it to the products.

Xylitol consumption has been shown to naturally increase collagen production. How? It directly affects collagen synthesis (the process of collagen creating) by increasing hydroxyproline content, which plays a role in collagen stability. More collagen is a beautiful reason in and of itself to swap out products with added sugar for those with xylitol.

Xylitol and Bone Health

Another benefit of xylitol is that in rodent studies, it has been shown to increase bone strength by increasing calcium absorption and deposition into the bone matrix.

Several of these studies have been completed in rodents using a variety of methods and with the same results – increase in bone density. That makes swapping out sugar and other sugar alternatives for xylitol a potential benefit to your bones.

Think of the benefits to your teeth alone when it comes to making the swap for xylitol. If xylitol decreases cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth and supports bone health by increasing calcium absorption in the body, you’re looking at stronger, healthier teeth and a reduction in the dreaded dental drill.

Furthermore, this is going to reduce oral inflammation associated with cavities and gum disease. While all inflammation is bad for overall health, oral inflammation has been directly associated with heart health issues.

More and more it looks like the key to great health and longevity is reducing inflammation, as it is the root of many diseases and promotes the progression of disease states. Swapping out sugar or other sugar additives for xylitol may be one way to curb inflammation, while increasing bone mass.

In addition to preventing inflammation, it’s also important to decrease and heal from existing inflammation. That’s where the famed omega 3 fatty acids, such as those readily found in fish oil, really shine.

This makes adding fish oil supplementation to the picture another healthy habit worth picking up to maximize bone health benefits. When you make healthy changes that benefit you all the way down to your bones, your other organ systems in your body benefit as well.

Comparison of Sugar Alternatives

We’ve discussed what xylitol is and its benefits. Now let’s compare Stevia, Splenda, Aspartame and Sorbitol with xylitol.
sugar alternatives infographic

[embed_infographic title=”Alternative Sugar Comparison Chart” alt=”Sugar Comparison Chart” src=”https://blog.algaecal.com/wp-content/uploads/sugar.png”]

You may recognize some of those sweeteners as the big names in sugar alternative.

  • Xylitol. Xylitol is equally sweet as sugar with 40% fewer calories and comes with a few health perks such as a decrease in cavities, reduction in oral inflammation, increase in collage and stronger bones.

Stevia, Splenda and aspartame are all significantly sweeter than sugar with zero calories, but also with zero known health perks. Let’s take a look at how they compare…

  • Stevia. Stevia has seemingly been the latest and greatest to come onto the market boasting zero calories. Because it yields zero calories, stevia doesn’t elevate blood glucose levels and it’s 40 times sweeter than sugar, meaning you can use 40 times less to sweeten something. Unlike xylitol though, it has zero health benefits to it. Interestingly some individuals report that stevia sweetened products have a metallic or licorice-like aftertaste to them.
  • Splenda. Is the trademarked name for sucralose, was originally thought to be the latest and great sugar alternative when it hit the market. The yellow packet seemed like the best choice for all your sweetening needs, but it’s recently fallen out of favor. Sucralose is 320 to 1000 times sweeter than sugar and has zero calories and thus doesn’t even rank on the glycemic index.

Because it’s that much sweeter than sugar, significantly less is needed to sweeten products making most of what’s in those yellow packets fillers. No one would want to open a packet with a single granule in it to sweeten their coffee. While sucralose hasn’t been associated with any health benefits, it has been associated with some controversies regarding advertising and the safety of this chlorinated sugar product.

  • Aspartame. The artificial sweetener aspartame and the controversies surrounding it have been around since 1965. It’s about 200 times sweeter than sugar, but its uses are limited because it breaks down when heated. Because the zero-calorie, artificial sweetener breaks down to a molecule called phenylalanine, aspartame is not recommended for anyone with a condition called phenylketonuria (PKU). Some individuals find that consuming aspartame gives them headaches. Additionally, aspartame has a distinct aftertaste that consumers either love or hate. Aspartame hasn’t been shown to offer any health benefits like xylitol has.
  • Sorbitol is like xylitol in that it still has calories, but less than sugar. Sorbitol has 2.6 calories per gram compared to 2.4 calories in xylitol and 4 calories per gram found in sugar. Sorbitol, again like xylitol, is a sugar alcohol. Unlike xylitol it comes with more of a caution regarding digestion. All sugar alcohols have the propensity to cause gastric distress, but sorbitol seems to cause issues even in small amounts. It has a significant laxative effect and is not recommended for consumption in the elderly without clinical consultation. Sorbitol is not recommended for Individuals with celiac disease, IBS, ulcerative colitis and/or other issues affecting intestinal health.

Xylitol Side Effects and Dosing

Because xylitol is naturally occurring, it’s safe to consume and generally well tolerated – although some side effects include bloating, nausea, gas, and diarrhea if you eat too much.

“Too much” is subjective, but for the most part amounts greater than 30 to 40 grams, or 7 to 10 teaspoons, of xylitol in a day would be regarded as the too much that causes gastric distress.

Slowly increasing the amount of xylitol you consume over time and breaking it up throughout the day is going to help circumvent or completely avoid digestive woes.

When creating our Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil, we were searching for a sugar alternative that would serve more than just the purpose of slightly sweetening the oil, but to also maximize the bone health benefits of the product, too. (It’s also corn-free, non-GMO, dairy-free, and gluten-free!)

That’s when we decided on xylitol.

But, there is one family member who cannot safely have any amount of xylitol. And that’s your dog.

Xylitol has been found to be unsafe for dogs to consume in any amount and if ingested can be fatal.

Why?

While xylitol doesn’t stimulate the release of insulin from the pancreas in humans (which is a benefit for those worrying about fluctuating blood sugar levels), this is not the case for non-primate species like dogs. The xylitol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in a dangerous release of insulin from the pancreas. This rapid release results in hypoglycemia (decrease in blood sugar levels).

This is sort of why we want to avoid giving our dogs chocolate, too. Humans are able to metabolize a component in chocolate called theobromine quickly, but dogs process it much slower. This allows it to build up toxic amounts in their system.

So yes, while dogs are a man’s best friend. We can’t eat the same. But it doesn’t have to do with what’s good or bad necessarily, but rather the way we metabolize and process certain foods.

The most common form of xylitol poisoning in dogs is from sugar-free gum (that contains xylitol).

For that reason, it’s important to keep all xylitol and xylitol containing food products and supplements out of your dog’s reach (and chocolate, too).

Take Home Message

Xylitol is safe and contains 40% fewer calories than sugar with added health benefits to your skin, teeth, bones and overall health.

When it comes to choosing products like Triple Power Omega 3 Fish Oil, xylitol stands out as another reason to choose it over other products.

That and the sweet novelty of having a fish oil that you actually crave instead of dread.

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  1. Ann Hancock

    April 8, 2017 , 7:13 am

    I’m so pleased you mentioned the fact that Xylitol is *extremely* deadly for dogs. A friend of mine lost her beloved dog when he ate some sugar free gum.

    And the first question a vet asks when you bring in your dog with a digestive issue is:
    “has s/he eaten anything like sugar free gum or candy?”

    I wish this information was MUCH nearer to the introduction, rather than buried at the end of the article where many may never read it. The reason I found it is because I was looking for it, being familiar with my friend’s tragic loss.

    Would you consider featuring this warning more prominently? So many follow your wonderful blog; it’s a great platform. Thank you for considering my viewpoint.

  2. Teddye Noel

    April 8, 2017 , 10:54 am

    Was very interested about the bone density — warning to dogs should have been more prominent — it also is in peanut butter and some people give their dog peanut butter treats

  3. Monica

    April 9, 2017 , 9:01 am

    Hi Teddye,
    I wasn’t aware that xylitol is also common in peanut butter – thanks for sharing and good to know.
    – Monica

  4. Diane Massey

    April 8, 2017 , 6:26 pm

    I have read that there are concerns that since Xylitol kills bacteria in the mouth/ears that it might disturb a healthy microbiome in the gut. Therefore, there are some experts that recommend avoiding its use. I personally believe that it is a prebiotic and is healthy, but I am not a professional.

  5. Monica

    April 11, 2017 , 10:00 am

    Hi Diane,
    Looking at the research from this post, it does look like it kills ‘bad’ bacteria but doesn’t affect the ‘good’ or healthy bacteria.
    – Monica

  6. Susanna Roland

    September 10, 2019 , 9:43 pm

    I have not taken the Triple Power product, but read about it with interest when I placed my order for AlgaeCal and Strontium. However, I was immediately turned off when I saw that it contains Xylitol. I try to educate everyone I know who has a dog as to the dangers of Xylitol, and for a fish oil supplement to contain it is horrifying to me – since many dogs are given fish oil as a supplement! I know the product is made strictly for human use and if it is stored properly it is safe, but knowing how deadly it is for dogs, I do not want to even risk having it in my house. I hope that a proper warning is prominently displayed on the label of these bottles, and if it is not, please consider changing your labels.

  7. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 11, 2019 , 3:50 pm

    Hi Susanna, thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns!

    We’re sorry to hear that you were turned off by the xylitol in Triple Power. Rest assured, we do have a warning on the label that says “Do not give to pets.”

    Hope this helps put your mind at ease! ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  8. Patty

    November 15, 2019 , 8:35 am

    I have finished my first bottle of Triple Power omega and my last blood work has shown an increase in my A1c plus my fasting glucose increased to 126 from 99.

  9. Megan AlgaeCal

    November 19, 2019 , 9:08 am

    Hi Patty, thanks for reaching out!

    The ingredients in Triple Power Fish Oil should not raise blood sugars (it’s sweetened with xylitol, which has no major effect on blood sugar).

    Patty, we would recommend checking in with your doctor about other possible causes of your increased blood sugars – have you changed any other parts of your diet/supplement/medication regimen? Please do keep us updated, and if you prefer to chat over the phone you can always call us at 1-800-820-0184. ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  10. Jayanthi

    February 7, 2021 , 10:54 pm

    I’d love to see a triple power algae omega3 oil!

  11. Blaire AlgaeCal

    February 9, 2021 , 1:31 pm

    Thank you for your feedback, Jayanthi! We will make sure to pass your comment onto our team 🙂

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  12. Debbie

    February 2, 2021 , 12:59 pm

    would have liked to try the fish oil but it is sweetened with Xylitol and natural flavour so l will decline. Husks of corn could be GMO and maybe this is why people are having gut issues? Why does it have to be sweetened at all? It could also make one crave sugar. Natural is a word that has alternative meanings that raises a flag for me. If you ever take these produces out please let me know.

  13. Blaire AlgaeCal

    February 4, 2021 , 11:31 am

    Hi Debbie!

    The xylitol present in Triple Power Fish Oil is non-GMO project certified from corn cobs. That said, it contains no corn DNA or protein so for allergy purposes it is actually “corn-free”. We use xylitol to make the product palatable. If you are sensitive to xylitol but still want to give our fish oil a try, we recommend very slowly introducing the fish oil at a quarter tablespoon a day and eventually working your way up to the full dosage.

    Hope that helps! Let us know if you have any questions ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  14. CinD

    November 6, 2022 , 5:40 pm

    How does xylitol hold up to heating? I’m looking for a sugar substitute for making a syrup that’s heated up.

  15. Brianne AlgaeCal

    November 7, 2022 , 8:25 am

    Hi CinD,

    Great idea! Definitely give it a try and let us know how it turns out! 🙂

    Xylitol is heat stable, and its melting point is around 92 degrees Celsius (198 degrees Fahrenheit).

    I hope this is helpful!

    – Brianne @ AlgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,