Management of Diabetes

The incidence of diabetes is on the rise around the world as the population ages and our lifestyles tend to make more of us struggle with our weight. In fact the US Centers for Disease Control has declared diabetes to be an epidemic. Also, they have calculated that 26 million people suffer from the disease with a further estimate of 7 million that are undiagnosed. And perhaps as many as 57 million more are pre-diabetic.

One of the most important strategies for diabetics is to control their blood sugars and the most effective non-sugar sweetener on the market is xylitol. All foods contain sugars and so after eating, the body needs to metabolize them which it does using insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas and in diabetics it is not produced at all, called type 1 diabetes, or in insufficient quantities to deal with the sugar intake, called type 2 diabetes. While sugar management is very important in managing both types of diabetes, there are many people who can control the illness through managing their diet. And for these people, the benefits of xylitol can be the difference between beating diabetes and suffering from its effects.

The fact that xylitol can replace cane sugar on a teaspoon for teaspoon basis without any perceptible change in sweetness and at the same time has only 40% of the calories (The Sweet Miracle of Xylitol- Fran Gare) means that its dietary benefits can be dramatic. Xylitol also has a low GI meaning that it takes much longer for the body to absorb the calories from it than from sugar so that you will feel satiated for longer.

Added to this, the way that xylitol is metabolized differs from sugar, breaking down into short chain fatty acids that are utilized by the body. On top of that, about one third of the xylitol that is ingested is absorbed directly by the liver and so it never has a chance to effect blood sugar levels.

Xylitol also differs from other sweeteners such as sorbitol, saccharin and aspartame. All of which have draw backs as a replacement for normal cane sugar.

Sorbitol is derived from glucose and while it has only about 60% of the calories of sugar it is less suitable as a sugar replacement for diabetics than xylitol.

Sweeteners like saccharine are very chemical and because it is 300 times sweeter than sugar it is difficult to substitute in common sweet recipes.
Aspartame has been linked to various side effects, most commonly headaches, making these alternatives for sugar replacement less attractive than naturally occurring xylitol.

Apart from the benefits of easier blood sugar management for diabetics that xylitol offers, there are also a number of other health benefits that it offers. Such as its beneficial influence on dental health and a connection with hardening bones that is helpful to people with osteoporosis. That makes xylitol a sensible choice as an alternative to sugar and the chemical sweeteners that have been most widely used to replace it.