Science Say Hello to Xylitol
posted by July 27 at 14:12 PMon
Last night at the Hideout, I was talking to Jennifer Borges Foster and she interrupted me and said, “Are you drinking peach schnapps?” She smelled something on my breath. I was, in fact, drinking water. But I was chewing a piece of this—I took it out and showed her:
A couple minutes later, I was talking to Brangien Davis and she said, “What do I smell? Are you drinking peach schnapps?” I showed her the gum. “Can I try it?” she said. She put it in her mouth. I told her to anticipate tropical peach, with an edge of mint. She turned to the person next to her. “You should try this.” And then to me: “Do you have another piece?”
I had one piece left, but I am nothing if not generous. As I was digging it out of the package, Davis took an interest in the packaging and, in particular, the two words there to the right: “WITH XYLITOL.” What is xylitol? Why does it begin with an x? Will we grow an extra ear if we continue to chew it? She requested a full investigation, and as she was making this request there was a small explosion behind the bar, a liquid explosion, and all of us got hit with little droplets of something. The source of the flying liquid was never ascertained.
Davis said, “I blame xylitol.”
On the way home from the Hideout, I stopped in a grocery store and bought Tropical Twist Trident’s competitor, Citrusmint Orbit.
Huh. No mention of xylitol anywhere on the cover of the packaging. But further investigation of the miniscule text on the sides found this (blown up big so you can read it):
There it is. Xylitol. OK, xylitol: who are you and what do you want with us? Per Davis’s request, a full investigation (2 minutes on Wikipedia) has been conducted, and lo and behold, xylitol is not some awful, awful, third-ear-growing agent, but a rather docile sugar-alcohol. It is “a naturally occurring sweetener found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms. It can be extracted from corn fiber, birch, raspberries, plums, and corn.”
Cute! But wait—there’s more!
Xylitol was first derived from Birch trees in Finland in the 19th century and was first popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for diabetics that would not impact insulin levels…
More on Finland, the country xylitol calls home:
Xylitol is widely used in Finland, its “home country.” Many Finnish confectioneries employ xylitol, or have a xylitol version available. Virtually all chewing gum sold in Finland, as well as the rest of Europe is sweetened with xylitol.
Although, culturally, xylitol gets around:
In China, Japan and South Korea, xylitol is found in wide assortment of chewing gums. China, Korea and Japan even have a brand of gum named “Xylitol”, Japan also has a brand called “Xylish”. In addition, when Extra introduced xylitol-containing products to Hong Kong and Guangdong, the word “xylitol” is transcribed into Cantonese as “???” (Jyutping: saai3 lok6 to4), which literally means “suntan camel”, and the camel is used as a figurative icon in its advertisements.
Xylitol is a “toothfriendly” sugar. In addition to not encouraging tooth decay (by replacing dietary sugars), xylitol may actively aid in repairing minor cavities caused by dental caries. Recent research confirms a plaque-reducing effect and suggests that the compound, having some chemical properties similar to sucrose, attracts and then “starves” harmful micro-organisms, allowing the mouth to remineralize damaged teeth with less interruption.
Xylitol also appears to have potential as a treatment for osteoporosis. A group of Finnish researchers has found that dietary xylitol prevents weakening of bones in laboratory rats, and actually improves bone density.
Plus, did I mention—
Studies have shown that xylitol chewing gum can help prevent ear infections…
I’m sorry, there’s just so much—
ASICS Corp., a Japanese company, markets a line of women’s t-shirts with xylitol infused into the fabric. Xylitol, like several other sugar alcohols, exhibits a cooling effect in the mouth. The t-shirts are intended to utilize this same property to keep a person cooler in warm weather.
Downsides: it’s a mild laxative (hasn’t had this effect on yours truly) and one time scientists fed a standard poodle a shitload of xylitol and it died.
Somewhat off topic: I’m starting a band called Berries, Corn Husks, Oats, and Mushrooms.