Xylitol is a sugar alcohol used as a sugar-free, dietary substitute. Sugar alcohols are derived from hydrogenated carbohydrates. Xylitol is one of the must popular sugar alcohols because of its sweetness and similarity to sucrose. Xylitol is used in hundreds of food items. Despite its popularity, however, the substance can have side effects.
First used in foods during the 1960s, xylitol is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization. Consuming more than 6 to 8 grams of xylitol, either in pure form or in a product, can cause bloating, gas pain and cramps. Consuming more than 40 grams in one day can cause severe diarrhoea. Bouts of diarrhoea can continue for several hours after consumption. The negative side effects subside a bit as your body adapts to the substance. Diabetics should not consume more than 70 grams per day as rising blood sugar levels could mirror the effects of sugar on the body.
In rare circumstances, people can experience an allergic reaction to xylitol. Symptoms can include itching, hives, a rash, wheezing, difficulty in breath and throat or mouth swelling. Severity varies from person to person. Xylitol is mostly made from birch trees, so if you are allergic to this tree, discuss the issue with your doctor before using xylitol.
There is limited research about the long-term effects of xylitol and its overall safety. For now, xylitol in moderate doses is considered a safe alternative to sugar. However, according to RxList.com, there is concern that ingesting extremely high doses of xylitol for an extended period of time (over 3 years) may increase your chances of developing cancer. This has not been scientifically confirmed. Do not use xylitol products if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; its effects on the foetus or a breastfeeding child have not been determined.