You may have noticed an ingredient called “xylitol” appearing in products from gum to peanut butter. Proponents tout its benefits, but before popping a piece of xylitol gum in your mouth, it’s good to pop a couple of questions.
What is it?
Xylitol is a naturally occurring sugar that can be found in fruits, vegetables and grains like raspberries, mushrooms, corn and oats. It’s typically extracted from fibers in birch trees or corn husks and cobs.
When xylitol is extracted from plants, it can be used as an artificial sweetener with some pretty sweet benefits. First, it contains about one-third of the caloric content of regular table sugar. More importantly, it doesn’t cause tooth decay like sugar. In fact, it can actually help prevent cavities.
Is it effective?
Xylitol has been proven to effectively prevent cavities when added to chewing gum, toothpaste and other oral care products. But there’s a caveat: It takes about 20 grams of xylitol a day to truly work, which is quite a lot – it’s the equivalent of about 20 sticks of gum. The small, naturally occurring amount found in food is likely not enough to have an effect on teeth.