Is Xylitol Safe?
Xylitol is commonly used as a sugar substitute, but is it safe when used medicinally? In order to use xylitol safely, you should consult with your healthcare provider before using it if you have any allergies or are pregnant or breastfeeding. It is also important to know that while xylitol is safe for humans, it may be deadly to pets (particularly dogs).
Xylitol Safety Issues: An Introduction
Xylitol is a natural sugar substitute that is also used to prevent cavities (and for a few other medicinal uses as well). In order to use xylitol safely, you should talk with your healthcare provider prior to taking it if you:
- Have any allergies, including allergies to medications, foods, dyes, or preservatives
- Are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant (see Xylitol and Pregnancy)
- Are breastfeeding (see Xylitol and Breastfeeding).
You should also be sure to tell your healthcare provider about all other medicines you are taking, including prescription and non-prescription medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Specific Xylitol Warnings and Precautions
Warnings and precautions to be aware of concerning the safety of xylitol include the following:
- Massive doses of xylitol for extended periods of time causes increased tumor growth in laboratory animals. However, this has not been shown to be the case in humans. Xylitol appears to be quite safe for human consumption (after all, it is a natural sugar alcohol found in many plants).
- While safe for humans, xylitol can be deadly to pets. In particular, there have been cases of dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), liver damage, and death due to xylitol consumption in dogs. It is not entirely clear if the same problems are possible in cats, although this generally does not seem to be the case.
- Xylitol is usually made from birch trees (and sometimes from other plants, such as corn). As a result, it is possible that xylitol (especially poorly refined xylitol) could cause allergic reactions in some people.
- It is not known if large doses of xylitol are safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.