Get to Know Xylitol: The Sugar Substitute with Protective Benefits
Xylitol is a sugar-like substance with a sweetness similar to that of table sugar. However, due to some differences in chemistry and the way the body metabolizes it, xylitol supplies 40% fewer calories than table sugar. This makes xylitol a suitable low-calorie sugar substitute that has been widely used since the 1930s.
Xylitol is naturally sourced from plants and trees
Xylitol derives its name from the Ancient Greek "xylon" meaning wood which points to its natural source. Current production of xylitol involves extraction from hardwoods, softwoods and even from agricultural products such as rice, corn and wheat.
Xylitol helps protect the mouth and nose from infections
Xylitol is now being commonly added to a variety of dental applications such as chewing gums and toothpaste due to its protective actions against cavity-causing bacteria. A similar benefit is also seen when xylitol is used to irrigate the nasal passages, where it can play multiple roles in protecting against infections. Xylitol solutions can dilute the salts that have been negatively affecting the innate or natural antimicrobial substances of the nose. Xylitol also disrupts bacterial growth and metabolism, and prevents the formation of biofilms that bacteria use to shield against antibiotics.
Xylitol nasal rinses have been found helpful in treating patients with long-standing nasal and sinus infections
Chronic rhinosinusitis is a long-standing inflammatory condition affecting the nose and sinuses. The condition is managed with antibiotics, steroids and nasal irrigations. Some studies show that the addition of xylitol with the irrigating solution may improve treatment outcomes. In two separate clinical trials published in 2011 and 2018, it was shown that nasal irrigations with xylitol have led to better resolution of symptoms compared with irrigations with plain salt water solutions.
Lin L, Tang X, Wei J, Dai F, Sun G. Xylitol nasal irrigation in the treatment of chronic rhinosinusitis. Am J Otolaryngol. 2017;38:383-9.
Weissman JD, Fernandez F, Hwang PH. Xylitol nasal irrigation in the management of chronic rhinosinusitis: a pilot study.