Dangers of Xylitol

Mint chewing gum
Xylitol mint flavored chewing gum pile (Image: serjedi/iStock/Getty Images)

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has five carbon atoms. Other sweeteners like sorbitol and glucose have six. While xylitol tastes sweet, dentists like it because it’s not converted to acids that cause tooth decay in the mouth due to its molecular structure. Xylitol occurs naturally in small amounts in berries, vegetables, corn cobs and mushrooms. Eating a regular amount of xylitol does not appear to pose any serious health risks, but eating excessive amounts can lead to some problems.

Diarrhea

Man with upset stomach holds toilet paper
Man with upset stomach holding toilet paper rolls (Image: nebari/iStock/Getty Images)

Xylitol can have some unpleasant side effects when consumed in large amounts. The most common side effect is bloating and diarrhea, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol sometimes cause a laxative effect. This is similar to the effect of eating too much fructose, which is the natural sugar in fruit, reports the hospital. This is most likely to occur when a person uses xylitol in large quantities, such as more than 40 g per day, according to Epic Dental of Provo, Utah.

Tumors

Bubble gum machines
Large chewing gum dispensers in a row (Image: VitaSerendipity/iStock/Getty Images)

RXList.com reports that it’s safe for adults to consume up to 50 g of xylitol each day, but that people need to avoid higher doses. There is concern that taking xylitol in extremely high doses for more than three years may cause tumors. Children need to be limited to 20 g per day. Xylitol has been used as a cavity preventative in both kids and adults, with 7 to 20 g per day typically divided into three to five doses. These are usually taken as chewing gum or candies. Xylitol also is used medicinally to reduce ear infection risk, with doses totaling 8.4 to 10 g per day, divided up and given to preschoolers after meals in the form of gum, lozenges or syrup.

Blood Sugar

mid section view of a woman measuring her waist
Mid section view of a woman measuring her waist (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Eating too many sugar alcohols such as xylitol can cause weight gain and affect blood-sugar levels. Sugar alcohols are not free of calories. They have about 2.6 calories per gram. Some people do not realize this and eat xylitol in excessive amounts. American Diabetes Association guidelines state sugar alcohols are OK in moderate amounts, but that they should not be consumed in excess. Some folks who have diabetes, especially those with type 1, see their blood sugar levels rise when sugar alcohols are eaten in uncontrolled amounts, according to Yale-New Haven Hospital.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Load comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.