Xylitol was first discovered in 1891 by Emil Fischer, a German chemist. Later on, in 1902 he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Natural sweetener, Xylitol was used in the 1930s in Finland and while World War II sugar shortages. During the Sixties, the product had been marketed in Germany, Switzerland, the Soviet Union, Japan, Italy, and China. It was certified by the FDA in 1963 as a food additive. Xylitol currently is made use of as food, pharmaceutical, oral health product, and nutraceutical in more than 35 countries.
What is xylitol?
As all polyols, polyalcohols, xylitol is a sugar alcohol or hydrogenated carbohydrate. It is also known as sugar alternative, bulk sweetener or sugar-free sweetener. It is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, and can be extracted from various berries, oats, and mushrooms, as well as fibrous material such as corn husks and sugar cane bagasse, and birch. Initially, xylitol was obtained only in this way. These technologies have been preserved in many enterprises. However, in the 1970s it was Finland which developed commercial chemical process of xylitol producing.
Xylitol is roughly as sweet as sucrose and contributes with 2.4 kcal (9 kJoules) per gram, compared to 4 kcal (17 kJ) per gram for typical carbohydrates.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies xylitol as "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). Xylitol is also approved in EU as a food additive E967.
What products is xylitol used in?
Xylitol has virtually no aftertaste, and is advertised as "safe for diabetics and inpiduals with hyperglycemia." This tolerance is attributed to the lower xylitol effect on a person's blood sugar, compared to that of regular sugars and also has a very low glycemic index of 8 (glucose has a GI of 100).
Xylitol dental significance was researched in Finland in the early 1970s, when scientists at Turku University showed it had significant dental benefits. According to TR CU 029/2012 xylitol (E-967) can be used as a sweetener, humectant, stabilizer and emulsifier. Xylitol (European safety number E 967; International number INS 967) is specific in its inhibition of the mutans streptococci group, bacteria that are contributors to tooth decay. Xylitol inhibits mutans streptococci in the presence of other sugars, with the exception of fructose. The unique combination of sweet taste and antibacterial properties has led to widespread use of xylitol in products such as chewing gum, lozenges, and candy mints. In addition to it, it is used in the processes of canning fruits and berries, to increase the shelf life of milk and dairy products, while creating desserts, jam and chocolate. Xylitol used as an emulsifier in the production of ice cream. And, of course, xylitol is included in the wide range of confectionery products recommended for a healthy diet, and for persons suffering from diabetes or obesity.
The pharmaceutical industry uses xylitol as a sweetener in its products, for example in the form of vitamins pills or tablets.
In cosmetics, xylitol is used as a gelling and thickening agent and a humectant agent for the skin and hair care products. Combination of antibacterial properties and sweet taste of xylitol make this sweetener useful in oral hygiene products such as toothpaste, fluoride tablets, mouthwashes and sanitary napkins for the mouth.
Other industry applications
Xylitol is used as humidity plasticizer and stabilizer in the manufacture of cellophane and paper industry, as a component in the preparation of varnishes, non-ionic surfactants and detergents, paints, adhesives and other materials.