History of xylitol

The home of xylitol

There’s no doubt that Finland is the home of xylitol. Mints, gum and sweets containing this natural sweetener can be found everywhere in Scandinavia, and you’d be hard pushed to find someone who didn’t know that they are good for teeth. You’ll even find it in pastille or mint form in school dining rooms and office canteens.

Where is xylitol sourced from?

The best source of xylitol is birch trees, and since 65% of Finland is covered in birch woodland it’s no surprise that it’s the original home of xylitol. It can actually be found in many types of plant, especially starchy vegetables, but birch trees are naturally richer in xyclose so they are one of the best sources. We always source non-GMO xylitol and we like to get most of ours from European birch and beech trees and sometimes starchy vegetables like green beans.

When was it first discovered?

The natural sweetener was first discovered at the end of the 19th century. It really became popular in the early 20th century when Finland suffered a cane sugar shortage due to lack of shipping during World War II. Although scientists were aware of its low GI properties at this time, nobody knew about its dental health benefits until many years later.

So what about it’s dental health benefits?

It wasn’t until the early 1970’s that Finnish researchers discovered the natural birch tree sweetener was actually really good for your teeth. At the University of Turku it was discovered that it could affect the decay causing bacteria in the mouth. Several studies then followed which showed that it could in fact reduce cavities, and hey presto, in 1975 the first xylitol chewing gum was made. This also coincided with the change in the Finnish law on Public Health, which was switched from remedial to preventative oral care.

More and more xylitol products…

The Finns then began to produce xylitol mints and sweets alongside the gum, which became widely used across Scandinavia. Nowadays you’ll barely find a school which doesn’t provide these sugar-free alternatives for their pupils on a daily basis.

Why doesn’t the rest of the world know about xylitol?

Many people do. Its popularity has increased throughout Europe, the US and Japan, who have followed suit and have taken on a preventative approach to dental health. Plus, in 2008 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) approved the claim that xylitol gum reduces the risk of tooth decay. The UK has just been a little slower off the mark. Don’t worry, here at Peppersmith we’re doing all we can to spread the word about the benefits of xylitol and its preventative care.
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