E967

Xylitol

  • Our verdict: 2 - with reservations, otherwise relatively ok
  • Origin: It is produced from natural sources that are not further chemically treated.

Xylitol, also known as E967, is a sugar alcohol commonly used as a sweetener in various food products. It is similar in sweetness to sucrose (table sugar) but has approximately 40% fewer calories. Xylitol has a crystalline, white appearance and is often used as a sugar substitute due to its lower calorie content and beneficial health properties, especially in the area of oral health.

Origin

Xylitol occurs naturally in small amounts in various fruits and vegetables, including berries, corn husks, oats and mushrooms. Commercially, xylitol is usually made from birch bark or corn cobs. The process involves the hydrogenation of xylose, a sugar derived from these plant materials, to form xylitol.

Characteristics and uses in the food industry

Xylitol is used for several reasons and works effectively in a variety of food products due to its unique properties:

  • Sweetness: It provides sweetness comparable to sugar.
  • Low Glycemic Index.
  • Safe to the teeth: Reduces the risk of cavities and tooth decay by inhibiting the growth of oral bacteria.
  • Moisture Retention: Helps retain moisture in baked goods, extending their shelf life.
  • High temperature stability: Stable at high temperatures, making them suitable for cooking and baking.

Use in ultra‑processed foods

In ultra‑processed foods, xylitol is used for several purposes:

  • Sweetener: Replaces sugar to reduce the calorie content of products such as sugar‑free chewing gum, candy and baked goods. It provides a similar level of sweetness without the high calorie intake.
  • Oral care products: Incorporated into toothpastes, mouthwashes and chewing gum to prevent tooth decay and promote oral health.
  • Low‑calorie products: Used in diet and low‑calorie products to maintain sweetness without adding excess calories, which is popular in weight management foods and beverages.
  • Texturizing agent: Improves texture and moisture retention in baked goods and confectionery, enhancing the consumer experience.
  • Stabilizer: Acts as a stabilizer in creams, frostings and other products that require consistent texture and moisture content.

Effects on human health

While xylitol is generally considered safe, there are some health considerations and potential side effects you should know about:

  • Digestive problems: consuming large amounts of xylitol can cause gastrointestinal problems, including bloating, flatulence and diarrhea, due to its laxative effect.
  • Allergic reactions: In rare cases, some individuals may have allergic reactions to xylitol.
  • Dangerous to pets: Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs and can cause severe hypoglycemia and liver failure if consumed.
  • Energy: Although it has fewer calories than sugar, xylitol still contains calories and should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Sources

  1. Livesey, G. (2003). "Health potential of polyols as sugar replacers, with emphasis on low glycaemic properties." Nutrition Research Reviews, 16(2), 163‑191. DOI: 10,1079/NRR200371
  2. Mäkinen, K. K. (2010). "Sugar alcohols, caries incidence, and remineralization of caries lesions: a literature review." International Journal of Dentistry, 2010, Article ID 981072. doi:10,1155/2010/981072.
  3. E967 Xylitol - Codex Alimentarius. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/gsfaonline/additives/details.html?id=149.
  4. Dawes, C. (2016). "The physiological and metabolic effects of xylitol." Canadian Journal of Dental Hygiene, 50(3), 104‑111. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093271/.