Xylitol is considered a "sugar-free" sweetener, but differs from artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda® because it is all-natural. It is almost identical in sweetness to table sugar (sucrose), but has 40 percent fewer calories. It also has a lower glycemic index than sucrose (7 compared to 65), meaning it is absorbed more slowly from the intestines into the blood, thus preventing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. In addition, according to Drugs.com, it does not depend on insulin to be metabolized.
According to The American Journal Clinical Nutrition, xylitol is a suitable component of the diet for diabetic patients. However, Web MD says there is insufficient evidence for xylitol as a sugar substitute for people with diabetes, and according to Maria Collazo-Clavell, M.D., a member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American College of Endocrinology, the American Diabetes Association and The Endocrine Society (Mayo Clinic), diabetics should be cautious with sugar alcohols like xylitol because they can increase blood sugar levels. If you are diabetic, it is best to consult your health care provider before using.
In a University of Michigan study involving more than 1,200 children, chewing gum with xylitol dramatically reduced new cavities, and also helped reverse the process of decay in existing cavities. When oral bacteria metabolizes sucrose, it breaks down into acids causing cavities. Xylitol, on the other hand, produces almost no acid because bacteria does not metabolize it efficiently. Web MD says 1 to 20 grams of xylitol, from products such as chewing gum, candies and foods, is needed per day to significantly reduce the rate of cavity formation in children and adults.
Acute Otitis Media
Xylitol may also help in the prevention of ear infections in young children. According to two double-blind studies, the occurrences of infections were reduced by 40 percent in children given xylitol chewing gum (Drugs.com).
Dietary xylitol increases calcium absorption in the intestines. When added to calcium supplements and given to rats deficient in calcium, it was shown to accelerate bone repair and improve the bioavailability of calcium salts (Drugs.com).