The study systematizes the current knowledge on the characteristics of xylitol as an alternative to commonly used high-fructose-glucose syrups and sucrose in food products. Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol, which is naturally present mainly in plant-based products. On an industrial scale it is obtained in the process of xylose hydrogenation. It is the sweetest of polyols, with relative sweetness comparable to sucrose. Xylitol (E 967) has been approved in the European Union as a food additive at quantum satis in most food applications. Food safety authorities such as: JECFA (Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives); SCF (Scientific Committee on Food) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) have considered xylitol as a safe sweetener. Xylitol can be used not only for food products sweetening, but also because of its numerous health benefits. Only 25 ÷ 50 % of xylitol is absorbed in the small intestine, and xylitol metabolism occurs with a small contribution of insulin and leads to a slight blood glucose level increase. Therefore, it is recommended for diabetics as well as for obese people. Xylitol is also ppreciated because of its welldocumented anticaries properties (it is not a substrate for energy processes of cariogenic bacteria, has a positive effect on the enamel remineralisation and reduces the adherence of pathogens to the tooth surface). Xylitol may also reduce the risk of acute otitis media in children when administered in a suitable dose.
xylitol, physico-chemical properties, food applications, glycaemic index, health properties