Xylose is the only 5-sided (pentagon) ring-structured sugar of the 8 essential sugars. Xylose is a sugar extracted from wood. In fact, the name comes from the Greek word, xylon, meaning wood. Xylose is the main building block for xylan. Xylan is a compound used to build plant walls. Xylose comprises 30% of some plants like birch but less than 10% in spruce and pine. Xylose is found in the embryos of most edible plants.

The sugar substitute, xylitol, is created commercially by reducing xylose via hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction at very high temperature that infuses molecular hydrogen into another compound. It usually requires a heavy metal catalyst like nickel, palladium or platinum to occur. We should not eat this synthetic version of xylitol. The healthy version does occur in nature so we want to ensure the process to extract it did not involve hydrogenation.

Xylose is absorbed in the second section of the small intestine called the jejunum. It is absorbed by a different mechanism than glucose. Xylose has 40% less calories than glucose and is only a 7 on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale. Glucose has a GI of 100. In addition, xylose has absolutely no fructose. Xylose is antibacterial and antifungal. It is proving to help prevent cancer of the digestive tract. Unlike sucrose or artificial sweeteners, xylose promotes the growth of friendly flora in the intestines. This increases the absorption of all nutrients. This aspect is necessary in strengthening the immune system to help fight disease.

Xylitol has powerful benefits for dental health and prevention of tooth decay. One of the leading risk factors for tooth decay is a type of oral bacteria called Streptococcus mutans. This bacterium is largely responsible for plaque. Some plaque on teeth is normal. But excessive bacteria can lead to inflammatory gum diseases like gingivitis. The cool thing about xylitol is that these mouth bacteria feed on glucose from food, but they cannot use xylitol. Replacing sugar with xylitol reduces the available fuel for these harmful bacteria and thus reduces tooth decay. Another benefit is that even though the bad bacteria cannot use xylitol for fuel, they still ingest it. When they get full of xylitol, the bacteria can’t ingest glucose. This means their energy producing pathway is blocked and they die because they are unable to create energy. So, when we chew gum with xylitol, the sugar metabolism in the bacteria gets blocked and the bacteria starve to death. In one study, xylitol-sweetened chewing gum reduced levels of bad bacteria by 27-75%. But it had no effect on the friendly bacteria which is a win-win situation.

Since the mouth, nose and ears are all interconnected, bacteria that live in the mouth can end up causing ear infections which is a common problem in children. It turns out that xylitol can starve some of these bacteria in the same way it starves the bacteria producing plaque. In one study involving children with recurring ear infections, daily usage of xylitol-sweetened chewing gum reduced the rate of infection by 40%. Xylitol can also fight the yeast Candida albicans, reducing its ability to stick to a surface and cause infection.

While xylitol can be very beneficial to humans, it is highly toxic to dogs. It can lead to hypoglycemia and/or liver failure resulting in death. In humans, xylitol is absorbed slowly and has no measurable effect on insulin production. When dogs eat xylitol, their bodies mistakenly think that they’ve ingested glucose and they start producing large amounts of insulin which drains glucose out of their blood. So, definitely keep anything with xylitol away from dogs.

The foods we can find xylose in are: guava, pears, blackberries, loganberries, raspberries, aloe vera gel, kelp, echinacea, boswellia, psyllium, broccoli, spinach, eggplant, peas and green beans. If you would like our opinion for options to supplement this nutrition, go to GRMVetted.org to request it.

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