Concerned about xylitol safety? I've never used it in my foods, but a lot of folks eating low sugar diets do.
Xylitol is technically a sugar alcohol.
Anything ending in "ol" such as "sorbitol", "erythritol" or "xylitol" is a sugar alcohol.
It's made by distilling out one specific consituent of a plant source (in this case birch trees or corn).
In theory, it's really neat science, but at the same time, remember that this is a fractionated, super-concentrated substance.
It's widely used in chewing gums and toothpastes, not only because it lends a sweet taste, but is also helpful in preventing tooth decay.
While xylitol is low carb, and has a low glycemic index, and is distilled from natural plant sources, do use it in moderation for your recipes.
Xylitol is a FODMAP ("Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols"), a short chain carbohydrate that can cause digestive upset for people with IBS and other digestive disorders. This is because they are not readily absorbed and are then fermented by intestinal bacteria creating gases including hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane.
If you want to use xylitol for an occasional treat that could work fine for you, but I don't recommend making it a part of your daily diet.
Keep it out of reach of pets and kids, as ingesting larger doses can cause serious side effects and can actually kill a small dog.
Xylitol is FDA approved considered safe for pregnancy, nursing mothers and children, when used in moderation.
It is also considered safe for diabetics, when used in moderation.
As with all sugar alcohol products (sorbitol, mannitol, erythritol, inositol, etc.) it can have a laxative effect in higher doses, even to the point of diarrhea. People who consume xylitol on a regular basis seem to reach a threshold where it no longer causes these side effects.
It is possible, but not likely, for someone to be allergic to xylitol. Do visit your healthcare provider asap if you develop signs of an allergic reaction, such as:
- Itching / Hives / Rash
- Wheezing or Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the mouth or throat
- Sores in the mouth
The highest quality xylitol comes from birch, which is less widely available and more expensive, but worth it.
Corn-derived xylitol is often made with genetically modified corn, in countries where purity standards may not be as high as what you'd expect. Although the finished product contains no corn proteins, which are what people are allergic to, I'd still recommend spending the extra money for birch-derived xylitol.