(NaturalNews) Many of us who have jumped on the lower-carb bandwagon have embraced xylitol as the darling of natural sugar substitutes. And yet, questionable manufacturing processes and the end product can be problematic - that is, a chemically extracted sugar alcohol the body is unable to fully digest which causes an uproar in the digestive tract. To make matters worse, xylitol is frequently made from GMO corn and produced in China. The sugar alcohol is also extremely toxic to dogs and can cause liver failure, as this study found.
Origin and history
Originally developed by French and German chemists in the 1890s, xylitol didn't become well-established on the market until World War II when sugar shortages in countries like Finland forced citizens to seek alternatives. Large scale production of xylitol coincided with the discovery of dental and diabetic advantages in the 1970s. The sweetener is derived from xylan (a polysaccharide), which is present in the plant cell walls of birch and beech trees, rice, oat, wheat and cotton seed hulls, corn cobs and stalks, along with sugar cane bagasse. Due to cost factors, most xylitol today is made from corn, rather than beech or birch. Chemically, all xylitol is the same, although GMOs are often present in non-organic varieties.
Organic chemist Shane Elison explains the production process of the sweetener in "Xylitol: Should We Stop Calling it Natural?":
"Xylitol is a molecular cousin to sugar and is derived from the crushed fibers of sugar cane [...birch wood or corn...] using a multi-step chemical reaction that involves the use of sulfuric acid, calcium oxide, phosphoric acid and active charcoal. The end product is a bleached, powdery blend of sugar alcohols that taste sweet on the tongue but are not absorbed by the body."
Elison continues, "[x]ylitol will rip up your insides, namely the digestive tract. It's being touted as a natural product, most likely so that it can bypass regulation. Thus, very little studies exist on its side effects." As anyone who has been overly enthusiastic about ingesting xylitol in large quantities can attest, the sweetener certainly lives up to its reputation of causing stomach distress, flatulence and loose stools. This alone is enough for anyone who cares about well-being to cast a weary eye upon the sweetener.
Moreover, it's interesting to note that polysaccharides are forbidden on a GAPS diet since the sugar encourages leaky gut syndrome. Digging a little deeper, another disturbing fact comes to light: Danisco (a worldwide supplier of xylitol) is owned by DuPont - the same corporation who concealed evidence that Teflon non-stick coating is a highly toxic carcinogen and substantially disrupts the reproductive system. Not exactly a company with a stellar track record for holding health in high regard.
And then there's the issue of xylitol that originates from China - a country known for its lax food standards, ranging from melamine contaminated milk to hidden GMOs. Even certified organic products from the country are suspect according to this article. Chances are, if your xylitol is from China, it's sourced from GMO corn and has questionable processing practices.
Some believe using xylitol made from birch trees in the United States or Finland is a safer option. Healing Teeth Naturally offers a list of companies that manufacture xylitol which is not corn derived, genetically modified or sourced from China.
In the long-run, however, we may be better off using non-GMO xylitol therapeutically (in small doses) as an antibiotic alternative for ear infections, as well as to encourage dental and sinus health, rather than consuming large amounts as a sweetener.
About the author: Carolanne believes if we want to see change in the world, we need to be the change. As a nutritionist, natural foods chef and wellness coach, she has encouraged others to embrace a healthy lifestyle of green living for over 13 years. Through her website www.Thrive-Living.net, she looks forward to connecting with other like-minded people who share a similar vision.