Xylitol low calorie substitute

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index. Some research suggests that it may also improve dental health, prevent ear infections, and possess antioxidant properties.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, which is a type of carbohydrate and does not actually contain alcohol. It occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees, corncobs, and even the human body.

Manufacturers use it as a sugar substitute because its sweetness is comparable with that of table sugar but with fewer calories.

It is also a common ingredient in many products, from sugar-free chewing gum to toothpaste. People also use it as a table-top sweetener and in baking.

This article looks at the uses and potential health benefits of xylitol. It also covers its side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and alternatives.

Uses

Xylitol sweetener on wooden spoons
A low-calorie alternative to sugar.

Xylitol has a similar level of sweetness to sugar but with a fraction of the calories. It is a popular ingredient in a variety of products, including sugar-free gum and toothpaste.

Manufacturers add it to a range of foods, including:

  • sugar-free candies, such as gum, mints, and gummies
  • jams and jellies
  • honey
  • nut butter, including peanut butter
  • yogurt

It is also an ingredient in some dental care products, including:

  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • other fluoride products

Potential benefits

Xylitol has several potential health benefits, including:

Low glycemic index

It has a low glycemic index (GI). This means that consuming it does not cause spikes in blood glucose or insulin levels in the body. For this reason, xylitol is a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Due to its low GI, it is also a weight loss-friendly sugar substitute.

Also, a 2015 study revealed that it had significant blood glucose-lowering effects in rats that ate high-fat diets.

Dental health

Xylitol is an ingredient in many dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. This is due to the fact that it is non-fermentable, which means that the bacteria in the mouth cannot convert it into the harmful acid that causes tooth decay.

The oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans is largely responsible for plaque, which is the sticky, white substance that can accumulate on the outside of a person’s teeth.

Plaque binds lactic acid against the surface of the tooth. This acid breaks down the enamel and leads to tooth decay.

While it is normal for people to have some plaque on their teeth, excess amounts can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

A 2017 systematic review suggests that xylitol reduces the amount of S. mutans bacteria in the mouth, which reduces the amount of plaque and may help prevent tooth decay.

A 2014 study examined it on Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is the bacterium responsible for gingivitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, excess amounts of P. gingivalis can move into the bloodstream and lead to systemic inflammation.

In the study, scientists grew samples of P. gingivalis in a laboratory and added them to human cell cultures pretreated with xylitol. They saw that xylitol increased the production of immune system proteins and inhibited the growth of the bacteria.

Ear infections

Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.
Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.

The bacteria that cause tooth plaque can also accumulate behind the eardrum and cause infections of the middle ear. Doctors call these infections acute otitis media (AOM).

A 2016 systematic review found moderate-quality evidence that chewing gum, lozenges, or syrup containing xylitol can reduce the occurrence of AOM from 30 to 22 percent among healthy children.

However, a 2014 study found xylitol syrup to be ineffective in reducing AOM in children at high risk of the infection.

These conflicting results indicate the need for more research regarding the use of xylitol as a preventive treatment for ear infections in children.

Antioxidant properties

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage and may play a role in the development of several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Laboratory studies show that antioxidants neutralize free radicals and counteract oxidative stress.

A 2014 study revealed that xylitol may have antioxidant properties. Diabetic rats who ate xylitol produced higher amounts of glutathione. This is an antioxidant that counteracts the harmful effects of free radicals. It is important to note that human studies are needed to validate these findings.

Side effects and safety

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved xylitol as a food additive. It is generally safe, but like other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea in some people.

It is worth noting that this substance can be very toxic to dogs. It is vital to store products containing xylitol in a safe place that pets cannot reach. Anyone who thinks that their dog has consumed xylitol should call their veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Drug interactions

Currently, xylitol has no known interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Always consult a doctor about potential interactions when starting new medications or supplements, however.

Dosage

The suitable dosage of xylitol can vary from person to person. A 2016 review found that adults can safely tolerate between 10 grams (g) and 30 g  per day, which they usually divide into several smaller doses. After the body adapts, adults can consume up to 70 g per day without side effects.

Studies in children have used doses of up to 45 g daily. Some research suggests that consuming around 5–6 g  per day may help reduce plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that more research is necessary before recommending xylitol to improve dental health in children.

Alternatives to xylitol

Syrup or nectar in a glass bowl
Agave nectar is an alternative sweetener

Manufacturers use a range of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes to sweeten foods and beverages. Many of these substitutes are also available as table-top sweeteners, and some people use them in baking.

Some substitutes are significantly sweeter than table sugar. However, its sweetness is very similar to that of table sugar.

Other artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes include:

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a similar molecular structure to xylitol. Sorbitol does not spike blood glucose levels, so it is a good sugar substitute for people who have diabetes.

Like xylitol, bacteria cannot break down sorbitol into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Erythritol

Erythritol is another sugar alcohol. Similarly to xylitol, erythritol also inhibits the growth of S. mutans.

A 2016 review found that high concentrations of erythritol are more effective at reducing oral plaque than both xylitol and sorbitol. However, xylitol is more effective than erythritol at lower concentrations.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that manufacturers extract from the stevia plant. Stevia extract is available in granular and liquid forms. Purified leaf extract is 250–300 times sweeter than sugar.

Like xylitol, stevia can sometimes cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a syrup that manufacturers extract from the agave plant and use as a sugar substitute in some drinks and foods.

However, agave nectar mainly contains fructose, which bacteria in the mouth can break down into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Summary

Xylitol is a reduced-calorie sugar substitute similar in sweetness to table sugar. It also has a low GI, which makes it an attractive alternative to sugar for people wishing to lose weight and those with diabetes.

Some research also suggests that this compound has antibacterial properties that can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and ear infections. However, further research into the potential health benefits of xylitol is needed.

Tiny implants may boost weight loss

As obesity rates soar, tiny implants which modify digestive processes appear to be the new trend in controlling or reversing obesity. The hunt for innovative interventions using tiny implants is more pressing than ever. According to a recent paper, a tiny, battery-free implant could offer fresh hope.
tiny implants
Researchers Guang Yao (left) and Xudong Wang (right) hold the small implantable device.
Image credit: Sam Million-Weaver

Obesity is a growing concern; today, experts class well over one-third of people in the United States as obese.

Globally, an estimated 4 million people died of conditions related to a high body mass index (BMI) in 2015 alone.

These worrying trends mean scientists are focused on understanding the causes, risk factors, and implications of obesity.

The reason why obesity develops in certain people and not others is multifaceted, involving genetic, hormonal, and psychological factors, among others.

The direct cause of excess weight, however, is the ingestion of more calories than the body uses. Some scientists are trying to find ways to trick the brain into consuming less food.

New tiny implants technology

Recently, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison tested a groundbreaking, high-tech solution.

The scientists designed a small, implantable device that they hope will reduce hunger pangs and help people lose weight.

The device, which is less than 1 centimeter across, can be implanted using a minimally invasive technique.

Consisting of a flexible nanogenerator, it sends small pulses of electricity through the vagus nerve, which passes messages between the stomach and the brain.

This mild stimulation convinces the brain that the stomach is full and reduces feelings of hunger.

Importantly, the device does not need a battery or charging. Instead, it gets its power from the churning motion of the stomach during peristalsis.

Because the movement of the stomach provides the device with its power, it only works when the arrival of food causes the stomach to move; this means that the device is only active at the precise time its signals will be effective.

“The pulses correlate with the stomach’s motions, enhancing a natural response to help control food intake,” explains author Xudong Wang, who is a professor of materials science and engineering.

To test the device, the researchers used a rat model, and they have published their findings in the journal Nature Communications. The results have encouraged the authors, as they explain:

We successfully demonstrated this strategy on rats and achieved 38 percent weight loss in as short as 15 days without further rebound, exceeding all current electrical stimulation approaches.”

No obvious safety issues

Importantly, the implant stayed in the correct position throughout the 12-week trial. Furthermore, there were no measurable negative impacts on the rats’ kidney or liver functions and no signs of infection.

The researchers carried out postmortem examinations on most of the animals’ vital organs and found no adverse effects.

When they compared the tiny implants with other weight-loss devices, it had several benefits. Gastric bypass surgery, for instance, permanently reduces the capacity of the stomach, whereas, the new implant is fully reversible, and the implant procedure is much less invasive.

This is not the only implant that stimulates the vagus nerve to reduce hunger pangs. There is a competitor that goes by the name of Maestro, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved. However, Maestro requires ongoing maintenance and up to 3 hours of charging each week.

The new tiny implants have no battery or wiring, as Wang explains, “It’s automatically responsive to our body function, producing stimulation when needed. Our body knows best.”

Also, Maestro uses high-frequency jolts to completely shut down the vagus nerve, rather than the intermittent pulsing of the new technology. Because the newer implant only works when it needs to, the body is less likely to overcompensate, which, in the case of Maestro, can slowly reduce how effective it is over time.

Of course, there is a long path between here and use in humans, but the authors are keen to continue their investigations. Next, they plan to trial the device in larger animals.

Natural Sugar effects

The effects of natural sugarnatural sugar fructose such as fructose on human health have been the source of much controversy. This is due to the fact that there are different kinds of foods, some of which are bad for health.

Fructose is a natural sugar that is present in fruits, fruit juices, certain vegetables, and honey. In these forms, this natural sugar can be part of a healthy diet.

However, it is also a component of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which manufacturers make from cornstarch and add to unhealthy foods such as sodas and candies.

Researchers are studying the links between high-fructose foods and obesity, diabetes, and even some cancers. However, there is also some evidence that indicates that it is not necessarily a public health concern when a person consumes it in moderation.

In this article, we will cover whether fructose is bad for health, the different types of sugar, and the research into their effects on the human body.

What is the natural sugar fructose?

apples and honey natural sugar
Fructose is a natural sugar present in fruit and honey.

Fructose is the sweetest of the naturally occurring caloric sweeteners. It occurs naturally in fruits, fruit juices, honey, and even some vegetables.

In its pure form, it is much sweeter than other types of sugar. As a result, people can use less of it than other sugars in cooking to achieve the same sweetness.

The most significant sources of fructose in the diet include:

  • table sugar
  • honey
  • agave nectar
  • fruit juices
  • HFCS, which is present in candy, baked goods, and sodas, and other processed foods

Manufacturers create HFCS by adding certain enzymes to cornstarch, which is essentially pure glucose. Glucose is another type of sugar. They then use this glucose to create a syrup that contains varying amounts of fructose.

Most varieties of HFCS contain either 42 or 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. This means that HFCS contains the same amount of fructose as sucrose, or table sugar.

Manufacturers make table sugar from a combination of fructose and glucose.

Honey is another common food additive. Honey contains a 1-to-1 ratio of fructose to glucose.

Is fructose bad for you?

A natural sugar like fructose from fresh fruit and vegetables is good for a person’s health. Processed forms of fructose, such as HFCS, may have negative health effects. Scientists are currently studying how this type of sweetener compares with other forms of sugar.

Below, we discuss the research around the possible risks and benefits of fructose on a person’s health.

The evidence against fructose

woman pinching stomach
Consuming large amounts of fructose may put a person at greater risk of obesity.

Some researchers believe that the body processes fructose differently than other types of sugar.

In particular, there are concerns that when a person consumes fructose in excess, it may stimulate the body to deposit extra fat, especially in the liver. This may contribute to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

According to a 2017 literature review, eating excessive amounts of fructose is associated with:

  • inflammation that could lead to insulin resistance
  • increased development of fat, as it may alter the ways that the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates
  • a greater risk of obesity and related conditions, such as metabolic syndrome
  • greater food intake, as it does not make people feel full

A 2016 study looked at the effects of fructose-rich drink consumption in those aged 12–16 years in Taiwan. People who drank more fructose-rich drinks had higher levels of insulin resistance, which is a marker for hardened arteries, diabetes, and heart disease in adults.

The evidence for fructose

Although there is evidence that excess fructose consumption is bad for health, it is difficult for researchers to separate the effects of fructose in the diet from those of other sugars.

This is because foods that contain high levels of added fructose usually also contain high levels of other sugars, such as glucose. Scientists conduct many research studies on the effects of fructose in rats fed combinations of sugars.

A 2014 literature review states that fructose does not have specific effects on the body that can cause weight gain when compared with eating sugar from other sources.

The authors also argue that, while sugar-sweetened drinks contain fructose, they are also high in calories. This may explain some links between fructose and obesity.

To date, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that they are not currently aware of any evidence that foods containing HFCS are less safe than other foods containing similar sweeteners, such as sucrose and honey.

The FDA list HFCS, the most controversial of the fructose-containing foods, as safe to eat.

However, people should limit their intake of all added sugars, including HFCS and sucrose.

Fructose vs. glucose

Fructose can bind to glucose. Fructose plus glucose is called sucrose, or table sugar.

Unlike fructose, the body largely breaks glucose down in the cells. The small intestine usually absorbs this sugar type and sends it out to the body’s cells for energy. Researchers usually regard glucose as the body’s preferred carbohydrate source for energy.

When a person eats glucose, the chemical structure of the compound triggers the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that allows cells to use glucose for energy.

A natural sugar such as Fructose does not trigger insulin release, nor does it trigger the release of hormones such as leptin, which tells the brain that a person is full, or inhibit hormones that tell a person’s body that they are hungry.

As a result, researchers suggest that fructose is more harmful to a person because they are more likely to eat more than if they had eaten food containing glucose.

However, a person should remember that foods with glucose-containing sugars still have calories. Excess calorie intake can lead to weight gain.

Sources and types of fructose

young woman eating a pear
Pears are naturally high in fructose.

Two fructose types exist: naturally occurring and HFCS. The body digests both the same way.

Examples of natural foods that are naturally high in fructose include:

  • agave syrup
  • apple juice
  • apples
  • caramel
  • dry figs
  • honey
  • licorice
  • molasses
  • pears
  • prunes
  • sorghum

Some vegetables contain fructose, but this is usually in smaller amounts than fruits. These include:

  • asparagus
  • chicory roots
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • leeks
  • onions

Summary

Fructose is naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, which people can include as part of a healthful, balanced diet.

Researchers are still debating whether various forms of fructose are bad for people’s health. The FDA state that fructose is a safe ingredient to add to foods.

They believe that there is not enough evidence to say that fructose is less safe than other similar sugars, such as sucrose and honey, but they recommend limiting all added sugars.

When people eat or drink lots of high-fructose foods, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, they are also taking in extra calories that can contribute to weight gain.

There is no recommended minimum or maximum intake of fructose daily because a person does not need this sugar to survive. Manufacturers add fructose to foods as a sweetener, but it has little nutritional value.

Where possible, doctors recommend that people eat fresh, whole foods and avoid frequently eating foods with added sugars.

Natural colon cleansing

This post explores the concept of natural colon cleansing. A colon cleanse is a popular alternative remedy that some people claim removes waste and toxins from the colon. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of natural colon cleansing routines, except for those that doctors prescribe.

Most of what researchers know about safe colon cleansing comes from studies that aim to find ways to improve the colonoscopy procedure rather than to boost energy levels or treat intestinal problems.

People may refer to colon cleansing methods by different names, including:

  • bowel cleanses
  • detoxes
  • flushes
  • juice diets

Most colon cleansing products supposedly help detox the colon or remove harmful substances, such as mucus and dry stool. Some people also use colon cleanses to help relieve constipation.

In this article, we discuss some popular colon cleansing methods and the science behind them. We also consider their potential benefits and risks.

Water

Woman drinking water as part of natural colon cleanseDrinking water regularly can naturally cleanse the colon.

Using water is one of the easiest and safest natural colon cleansing available, and the easiest way to cleanse the colon naturally. Water moistens stool and gives it bulk, facilitating its passage through the colon.

A person who is dehydrated will have fewer bowel movements because their body is trying to retain water. It will reabsorb water from the bowel, which results in the stool becoming dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, but it is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Other beverages, including caffeinated ones, contribute toward a person’s daily water intake, but plain water is the best option as it does not contain any calories.

In a 2013 study, researchers in Jordan found that drinking more than four cups of water daily decreased the risk of colorectal cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.

The same study identified constipation as a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent constipation, and it offers many other health benefits too.

Fruit and vegetable juice

Raw fruit and vegetable juices contain many elements that may help cleanse the colon, including fiber, phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), and natural sugars that act as laxatives, such as sorbitol and fructose.

Proponents of juice cleanses recommend the following types of juice:

  • apple, including the peel
  • prune
  • pear
  • banana
  • kiwi
  • grape
  • plum
  • persimmon
  • lemon

Some colon cleanse plans recommend consuming only fluids for a few days at a time to help cleanse the colon and digestive tract.

Most health authorities recommend against juice cleanses. Raw fruit juices can contain compounds that are hard on the kidneys and liver. Without any treatment to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, these juices can also make people ill. They may pose significant dangers for those with medical conditions, such as diabetes.

It is best to consume fruit and vegetable juices in the form of smoothies to keep all the fiber, water, and nutrients intact.

Fiber

Natural colon cleansing found in fiber adds bulk to stool, which reduces the time it spends sitting in the colon and increases the number of bowel movements that a person has. Many natural, whole foods are rich in fiber, including:

  • nuts
  • beans
  • seeds
  • berries
  • whole grains and cereals

People who find it difficult to get enough fiber through their diet can try taking fiber supplements. Popular fiber supplements include:

  • psyllium (Metamucil)
  • polycarbophil tablets (FiberCon)
  • methylcellulose

Fermented foods aid natural colon cleansing

Baked tempeh on tray
Tempeh is a fermented food that may benefit gut health.

Fermented foods often contain high levels of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that contribute to gut health.

These bacteria help the bowels move stool out of the colon regularly and reduce the risk of gas, bloating, constipation, and infection.

Common fermented foods that contain probiotics include:

  • yogurt and Greek yogurt
  • apple cider vinegar
  • kefir
  • skyr
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha
  • beer and cider
  • some types of cheese

Research suggests that probiotics may help prevent and possibly treat colon cancer, but researchers agree that more studies are necessary to understand these effects. A healthy gut biome offers numerous other benefits for overall health and immune function.

Resistant starches

Some foods contain resistant starches, which are types of sugar that are difficult for the body to break down. These starches remain mostly undigested and become bulk in the stool.

The more bulk there is in the stool, the sooner the bowel is stimulated into action, possibly helping cleanse the colon.

Foods high in resistant starches include:

  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • sugar beets
  • sugar cane
  • sweet corn
  • green bananas
  • beer and cider
  • vegetable stems, tubers, and roots
  • rice
  • buckwheat and millet
  • al dente pasta
  • white bread
  • cornflakes and muesli

Unlike other starches, digesting resistant starches produces compounds that research shows may help:

  • prevent colon cancer
  • improve macronutrient regulation
  • alter hormone levels, potentially improving mental and physical health
  • prevent or control diabetes
  • prevent or control obesity

Lemon juice

Regularly drinking lemon juice can have a positive effect on digestive health and help natural colon cleansing. It seems that people experience the most benefit when they drink it on an empty stomach, which allows the compounds in the lemon to interact more easily with the gut mucosa.

Having a clean colon is crucial for certain screening tests, such as colonoscopies. Most people receiving colonoscopies have to consume a colon cleansing preparation the night before the procedure.

In a 2015 study on colonoscopies, one group of participants received a preparation of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, in addition to the standard fluid mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG). The participants who took vitamin C had better bowel preparation than those in the other groups.

Lemon juice is very high in vitamin C so it may be an effective natural colon cleanser.

Herbal teas

Some herbal teas used in natural colon cleansing may be beneficial for digestive health.

Australian research from 2014 found an association between herbal tea consumption and a lower risk of colon cancer.

Other natural teas, such as ginger or lemon tea, may also help digestion.

Possible benefits of colon cleanses

Senior couple smiling outdoors jogging.
People who support colon cleanses claim they can improve energy levels, though there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

There are currently no proven benefits of colon cleanses, natural or otherwise. However, people who promote colon cleanses claim that they provide major health benefits, including:

  • increasing energy
  • removing toxins
  • improving liver function
  • boosting the immune system
  • aiding weight loss
  • relieving bloating, cramps, and gas
  • reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • improving mood

Safety and risks

Some of the potential risks of colon cleansing include:

  • weakness
  • irritability
  • electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
  • vomiting and nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • dizziness and fainting
  • loss of healthful gut microflora and increased risk of infection
  • diarrhea
  • bowel ulcerations, which are open cuts and sores
  • bowel infection
  • kidney damage and failure

People with preexisting bowel conditions should avoid bowel cleansing methods unless a doctor performs or prescribes them.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate natural colon cleanse products. The FDA have also taken legal action against companies who were using unproven medical claims to promote cleanse products, stating that they could reduce the risk of cancer or treat serious medical conditions.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health also point out several possible risks of cleanses, including:

  • diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration
  • bacterial infection from unpasteurized juice
  • lack of nutrients
  • headaches
  • weakness and fainting

People with kidney conditions should avoid drinking large quantities of juice because it can contain too much oxalate, which can cause kidney problems.

People with diabetes and other metabolic conditions should also avoid detoxes or extreme diets and instead follow a healthful, doctor-recommended diet.

Severely restricting calorie intake, which is often part of colon cleanses, can also be damaging to a person’s overall health. It rarely contributes to long-term weight loss or well-being.