Homemade butterscotch cupcakes with caramel syrup and cream cheese frosting

Guide to Xylitol

Average read time: 6 minutes

The naturally occurring, sweet-tasting xylitol offers an alternative to many sweeteners on the market. Because people can safely ingest small amounts, it is a prime additive to foods and other products that need a sweet taste without the blood sugar spikes from using sugar. Find out more about xylitol's uses, structure, and how it compares to other sweet alcohols and sweeteners on the market.

Xylitol is a natural sugar alcohol typically found in cauliflower, raspberries, strawberries, and plums. With regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, the average person usually eats 15 grams of xylitol daily.

A popular use of xylitol in manufacturing is to replace the sweetness of sugar while reducing calories. Because this sugar alcohol has roughly the same sweet flavor as an equivalent amount of sugar but 33% fewer calories, it becomes a good alternative for sugar in lower calorie and reduced sugar products.

1. Structure

Xylitol has five carbons in its structure, putting it into the category with other polyols, which have numerous hydroxyl groups. When produced for manufacturing, it yields an odorless, white powder. It has a high melting point around 93.5 degrees Celsius , 200.3 degrees Fahrenheit. It is also readily soluble in both water and alcohol.

When in crystalline form, this product will stay fresh for at least three years if kept in a cool, dry place. The ideal temperature and humidity for long-term storage of this sugar alcohol are 25 degrees Celsius , 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and below 65% humidity.

2. Production of xylitol

Though xylitol is naturally available, chemists create the large quantities needed by manufacturers by deriving it from products containing xylan. Almond hulls, birch wood, and corn all have xylan in enough quantities to hydrolyze it into xylose. Reducing the carbonyl group converts the xylose into xylitol.

The most frequent uses of xylitol are in food products and personal care items. Because this ingredient goes into products ingested by consumers, manufacturers should be aware of the upper safe intake limits, as well as any applicable rule or regualtions.

1. Food additive

Because this sweetener naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables, adding it to other food preparations makes sense as a safe, proven means of sweetening foods and adding bulk.

Foods that need extra sweetness without the added calories of sugar may benefit from adding xylitol to the formula. Sugar-free candies frequently use this sweetener as a means of preventing cavity development. While a sugar alternative, this sugar alcohol does not appear as frequently in dietetic foods as often as other sugar substitutes.

Just as this polyol appears in sugar-free candy, it also is an added ingredient in many oral medications. Tablets, cough syrup, multivitamins, and throat lozenges may have xylitol as an ingredient.

2. Personal care

While xylitol replaces sugar in food products and can enhance the cavity-reducing effects of other oral care ingredients, it also plays an important role in personal care products. Skincare, cosmetics, and haircare items take advantage of the antimicrobial properties of xylitol .

For oral healthcare products such as sugar-free gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash, xylitol will likely increase in its demand. Forecasters predict this increase due to a rising concern for oral health that correlates to increased urbanization around the world.

When used in these products, this polyol imparts a sweet taste without putting the user at higher risk for cavities. In mouthwashes and kinds of toothpaste, cavity-promoting sugar as an ingredient would defeat the purpose of the products. Xylitol helps the flavor of these products and, with regular use, could prevent cavities, as noted among its many benefits.

This polyol offers numerous health benefits for those who use it in consumer products.

1. Low glycemic index

The glycemic index refers to how much foods create a reaction in blood sugar levels. Sugar has a glycemic index between 60 and 70 , whereas xylitol has an index one-tenth of that — 7. This low value means that the sugar alcohol does not cause dramatic changes in blood sugar after ingestion.

2. Does not spike insulin or blood sugar levels

With its low glycemic index, xylitol does not cause spikes in blood sugar levels or the subsequent reaction of insulin.

For those who need to monitor their calorie intake, this sugar alcohol provides only 2.4 calories per gram compared to sugar's 4 calories per gram. The two have comparable levels of sweetness, which allows those with and without diabetes to enjoy calorie- and sugar-reduced foods with the same sweetness.

3. Helps teeth

Keeping teeth healthier could start with using xylitol-containing chewing gum and other oral care products. After two weeks of using chewing gum with this ingredient, patients had less dental plaque. When used for six months, the gum reduced the number of mutans streptococci bacteria in saliva and lowered plaque amounts on the teeth.

Additionally, because the bacteria that cause cavities do not metabolize sugar alcohols, they do not proliferate in the presence of xylitol. This ingredient also helps to stimulate saliva production, which further reduces the chances of developing dental caries.

4. Prevents ear infections

Some studies have linked xylitol's use to preventing ear infections in children by killing bacteria in the mouth that could migrate to the ear canal. Children who chewed gum containing this ingredient had a 40% lower rate of ear infections compared to those who didn't chew the gum.

Because bacteria in the mouth cannot consume xylitol, it eventually starves, which reduces cavities and prevents the germs from causing ear infections.

1. Compared to erythritol

When it comes to comparing xylitol to other sugar substitutes, you need to examine the potential side effects, sweetness, and feasibility of using each as an ingredient. Both erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols that replace sugar and reduce calories.

Erythritol occurs in nature in fermented foods, mushrooms, cheeses, and fruits. While a natural alternative to sugar, it may cause acid reflux in susceptible people . Others may experience a loss of minerals and dehydration from the use of this sugar replacement. Unlike other sugar alcohols, erythritol does not increase the chances of diarrhea because the body fully absorbs it.

Neither xylitol nor erythritol promotes tooth decay. Additionally, people with diabetes can use either sweetener.

Erythritol only has 60 to 80% of the sweetness of sugar , requiring more of it to achieve the same flavor. Since it does not have any flavor itself and no aftertaste, using this product in larger quantities or combined with other sweeteners do not severely affect the taste of the product.

Compared to xylitol and other sugar alcohols, erythritol costs more and has a more difficult production method. Natural products containing erythritol do not have enough of this sweetener to make extracting it from them feasible. Chemical synthesis requires nickel as a catalyst and high temperatures, both of which contribute to making the process not worth the cost for the low yield.

While erythritol offers numerous advantages, currently its production hurdles make it more difficult to procure for mass production of products containing it.

2. Compared to stevia

Stevia comes a member of the sunflower family native to South America , Stevia rebaudiana. The leaves contain the sweetness of the plant, which is drawn out by steeping the leaves like tea. For commercial use, high-purity stevia extract must have at least 95% steviol glycosides. Official agencies approve this version of the sweetener for use as an ingredient in foods and drinks.

The stevia plant has 11 naturally occurring glycosides which contribute to its sweetness. Its sweetening power depends on the variety of these glycosides in the extract and their type. The most potent forms of stevia can be up to 300 times sweeter than sugar.

Production of stevia resembles extracting flavor from other plants such as sugar cane or vanilla. The leaves steep in water, which manufacturers filter to remove any solid particles. Active carbon treatment next gets rid of any organic residue remaining in the extract. Minerals left in the water leave through ion treatment.

To concentrate the glycosides and boost the sweetness, the producers put the water through adsorption and desorption of resin, which leaves a sweet, concentrated liquid form of stevia. After spray drying, the stevia extract emerges in powder form, ready for use as an ingredient.

The FDA considers stevia to be "generally recognized as safe," GRAS, which allows for its use in consumer products. More than 200 studies back the safety of using stevia on a large-scale level for individuals.

3. Compared to sorbitol

Sorbitol, like erythritol, is another sugar alcohol. It only has half of the sugar's sweetness , which makes it also half as sweet as xylitol. In packaged form, it has a white or colorless appearance . It is hygroscopic in nature and both mixes with water and sinks in the mixture. You will find sorbitol in powder, crystalline, granular, and flake forms.

Due to its sweet taste, ability to replace sugar, and bulking agent, sorbitol appears in many medication preparations , particularly tablets and sugar-free concoctions. Occasionally, manufacturers use sorbitol as a medicinal laxative in either enema or oral suspension. Unlike other laxatives, sorbitol is non-stimulating, producing gentler results.

For food, sorbitol has applications in products for pets and people. Whereas xylitol is toxic to dogs, sorbitol has use in pet food preparations as well as human consumables that require fewer calories and sugar in their preparation. Because sorbitol has a proven function as a laxative, this medicinally desirable effect could happen when consuming it in food products. When the laxative capabilities of sorbitol emerge from the consumption of foods containing it, the effect is unwanted. To avoid complications, consumers should choose small amounts of foods containing sorbitol until they know how their bodies react to this sugar alcohol.

For cavity prevention, xylitol beats sorbitol in effectiveness, making the former a better option for oral care products and chewing gum than the latter.

Contact us with your xylitol questions

As a top specialty and chemical distributor, Brenntag can answer any questions you may have about xylitol and the other products in our catalog. With 190 distribution locations available, we can get the chemicals you need to you quickly. For more information about xylitol, see our artificial sweeteners guide or contact us at Brenntag.

  • https://us.brenntagconnect.com/ccrz__ProductDetails?viewState=DetailView&cartID=&portalUser=&store=&cclcl=en_US&sku=926229
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Xylitol
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Xylitol#section=Color-Form
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Xylitol#section=Handling-and-Storage
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Xylitol#section=Uses
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/xylitol-vs-erythritol
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756564/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4890837/
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sorbitol
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sorbitol#section=Physical-Description
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sorbitol#section=Use-Classification
  • https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Sorbitol#section=Drug-and-Medication-Information
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xylitol-101
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xylitol-101#low-glycemic-index
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xylitol-101#what-it-is
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xylitol-101#ear-and-yeast-infections
  • https://www.reportlinker.com/p05741320/Xylitol-in-Personal-Care-and-Cosmetics-Market-Size-Share-Trends-Analysis-Report-By-Application-By-Region-And-Segment-Forecasts.html
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17426399

This document is for informational purposes only. You accept sole responsibility for reading and complying with the Safety Data Sheets (SDS’s), as well as any other safety information, relating to the products listed herein. The information contained herein is based on Brenntag’s knowledge at the time of publication or release and not on any publications, independent studies, empirical evidence or other form of verification. You should not use or rely on any statements contained herein as a basis for any representations or warranties to your customers or end users as to the safety, efficacy or suitability of any product or for purposes of ensuring your compliance with any laws or regulations. Brenntag makes no warranties, express or implied, as to the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained herein or as to fitness of any product for any particular purpose. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as an authorization to use or an inducement to practice any patent, trade secret or other intellectual property right. Before producing and distributing any product, it is your sole responsibility to adequately test and document the performance of the product and acquire any required intellectual property rights. You assume all risks for failing to do so and Brenntag shall not be liable (regardless of fault) to you, your employees, customers or end users or any third party for direct, special or consequential damages arising out of or in connection with the furnishing or use of this information. Please contact your local Brenntag representative if you have any questions about this information.