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Q: making xylitol ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: making xylitol
Category: Health > Fitness and Nutrition
Asked by: liamusic-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 19 Jul 2006 23:05 PDT
Expires: 18 Aug 2006 23:05 PDT
Question ID: 747935
What is the process involved in making the sweetener from birch trees,
xylitol?  Is this a raw, whole-food product?
Subject: Re: making xylitol
Answered By: eiffel-ga on 20 Jul 2006 05:01 PDT
Hi liamusic-ga,

The best overview of xylitol production that I could find (written for
lay readers) is by Professor Mäkinen of the University of Turku,
Finland. Here are some extracts from his comprehensive article:

  "Various forest and agricultural materials rich in hemicellulose
   have been used as a raw material in xylitol manufacturing.
   Hemicellulose is chemically a xylan ... Xylans are typically
   present in certain hardwoods (such as birch and beech), rice,
   oat, wheat and cotton seed hulls, various nut shells, straw,
   corn cobs and stalks, sugar cane bagasse, etc."

  "In the manufacturing process of xylitol (2), the xylan
   molecules are first hydrolyzed into D-xylose. The latter is
   chemically reduced to xylitol which can be separated  by
   large-scale column chromatography. Xylitol is finally
   crystallized. The entire process is complicated and demands
   great engineering skills and experience."

  "Xylitol can, of course, be synthesized by means of organic
   chemical procedures ... Xylitol can also be made by means of
   bacterial fermentations ... These processes have not been
   economically feasible."

   History, Safety, and Dental Properties of Xylitol

So, the xylitol that you can buy certainly could not be called a "raw,
whole-food product". However, that's not the whole picture. Continuing
to quote from Professor Mäkinen:

  "Because xylitol occurs naturally in agricultural and
   forest products, xylitol also occurs in various foods
   used by man. The dietary sources containing relatively
   high quantities of xylitol are plums, raspberries and
   cauliflower ... The presence of free xylitol in food
   indicates that man and certain domestic animals have
   consumed xylitol during their entire evolution."

Also, our own bodies constantly produce xylitol:

  "In humans, relatively large amounts of xylitol (viz. 5 to
   15 g/day) are formed as a metabolic intermediate product
   of carbohydrate metabolism."

A vast amount of further information on the production, metabolic
features, oral and metabolic safety etc is also found at the
abovementioned webpage.

There is some additional information available at the Wikipedia page
mentioned in the comments by myoarin-ga:

   Wikipedia - Xylitol

including a warning that xylitol is harmful to dogs, who have a
different metabolism to humans (dogs are harmed by eating chocolate

To summarise: commercially-obtainable xylitol is not a raw whole-food
product, though xylitol itself is a natural substance. Xylitol does
not cause tooth decay and has no known toxicity to humans.

I trust this provides the information you require.


Google Search Strategy:

xylitol production OR manufacturing

Additional Links:

Xylitol production from sorghum straw hydrolysates:
Subject: Re: making xylitol
From: myoarin-ga on 20 Jul 2006 01:56 PDT
Here is the Wikipedia article about birch syrup:

The links to xylitol and Alaska Birch Syrup are also interesting.

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