Sugar alcohols have been gaining prominence across the world as a low-calorie alternative for table sugar. Food products that have been marked as “sugar-free” or “no added sugar” utilize sugar alcohol to offer the same level of sweetness as that of conventional sugar. It provides numerous benefits in terms of health such as improved dental health, weight loss and management, prevention of ear infection, strengthened gut health, lowering oxidative stress, and others.
A lot of research has been conducted across the world and there is still scope for more. Recently, a study has been published that outlines the benefit of one of the types of sugar alcohol known xylitol in prevention of Covid-19.
There are different types and each has its own benefits. Before consuming any type of sugar alcohol, consumers need to take benefits, sweetness, and calories of each type into consideration. The demand would grow in the coming years as its new benefits emerge with new research studies. According to the report published by Allied Market Research, the global sugar alcohol market is estimated to reach $4.80 billion by 2027. Let us explore few benefits of sugar alcohol that made it a popular sugar alternative among a massive population.
Sugar alcohols contain nearly 60% of the total calories of the conventional table sugar. If a person consumes four calories from particular amount of table sugar, then the person would consume only 2.5 calories from sugar alcohol for the same level of sweetness. This is one of the major benefits for which people have preferred it over table sugar. This sugar alternative would help people in weight management and weight loss. There are different types such as sorbitol, xylitol, and others. The percentage of calorie intake varies depending upon the type.
Sorbitol contains nearly two-thirds of calories and offers nearly 60% of sweetness in comparison to table sugar. The percentage of calorie intake and sweetness needs to be taken into consideration while deciding to consume a specific type of sugar alcohol for weight management and loss diets. Moreover, it is beneficial for people with diabetes to lower down sugar levels.
Dental health improving agent
The utilization of sugar alcohol has been increased in toothpaste, candies, and mouthwash products as it does not cause tooth decay. It does not form a harmful acid that leads to tooth decay. Some of the types such as xylitol are non-fermentable and do not form cavities. According to the research published in International Journal of Dentistry in 2010, sugar alcohols help in prevention of dental caries and damage to tooth enamels. In another research published in Journal of Natural Science, Biology, and Medicine in 2017, it lowers down the number of bacteria in mouth and prevents plaque and tooth decay consequently. Though not every type would be helpful and impactful in improving tooth dental health, some types such as xylitol and erythritol present numerous health benefits. That is why manufacturers of dental hygiene products have begun including them as prime ingredients in their products.
Prevention of ear infection
The type of bacteria that causes tooth decay and plaque can also cause infections in ear. The bacteria gather behind eardrums and causes infection of middle ear. As per the study published in Cochrane Library in 2016, chewing gums, syrups, and other food items containing xylitol can lower down the occurrence of ear infections by nearly 30 percent in children of age up to 12. There is a scope for more research to determine the exact impact of sugar alcohols on ear infections.
Good for gut health
Sugar alcohol has shown great benefits for maintain a good gut health. According to the research published in the journal Advances in Nutrition in 2017, sugar alcohol helps in balancing the bacteria in stomach. Its consumption would help in forming Bifidobacteria microbes, which offer numerous benefits for gut health. A formation of high concentration of these microbes is beneficial for proper digestion of food and reducing the probability of number of diseases such as obesity.
However, it is important to note that people with digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should not consume food containing rich amount of sugar alcohol as these benefits have not been replicated in them.
Potential antioxidant properties
Free radicals are responsible for causing oxidative stress, which in turn results in cell damage and development of different health conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants are needed to neutralize these free radicals. In a research paper published in Acta Poloniae Pharmaceutica in 2017, xylitol contains antioxidant properties. It would reduce oxidative stress and prevent the possibility of harmful health conditions. The research showed that there has been increase in antioxidants in diabetic rats after consumption of xylitol. There is a scope for research on humans to determine the exact effects.
Potential usage in the treatment of Covid-19
As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the world and caused millions of deaths, researchers and scientists have been working around the clock to find treatment options in terms of vaccines, nasal sprays, and others. Among many possible treatment options found by researchers, it has been found that the combination of seaweed extract and xylitol can be used for protection against coronavirus. Researchers from the U.S. published a report in the journal Cureus Journal of Medical Science in November 2020.
In the research, they found three nasal spray formulations that can have antiviral effects. The team stated that application of nasal spray, made up of xylitol in combination with seaweed extract known as iota-carrageenan, can be effective in reducing nasal and nasopharyngeal viral load. This, in turn, would slow down the progression of the disease. The research is ongoing and the team has been testing the formulations in hospital staff taking care of coronavirus infected patients. The results would be presented as the trials finish in next few months.