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Does Xylitol Break a Fast?

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD December 8, 2022

Prolonged periods of intermittent fasting can be challenging. Did you know that you can fight those sugar cravings without breaking your fast? The answer is simple — a pinch of a natural sweetener.

There are numerous sweeteners to choose from. One of the most popular ones is xylitol.

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Does Xylitol Break a Fast?

No, small amounts of xylitol will not break your fast. You can use it to sweeten up your drink during a fasting window without a worry in your mind.

The reason for this is that xylitol is very low in calories. During an intermittent fasting window, your insulin levels drop allowing your body to start burning body fat for energy. Sweeteners like sugar and honey are high in calorie content. This is why even a drop of sugar will cause your body to produce insulin and immediately break a fast.

Xylitol, on the other hand, is a low-calorie sweetener that will not affect your blood sugar levels when consumed moderately. Large amounts of xylitol, however, will most likely trigger an insulin response.

It’s important to note that xylitol shouldn’t be consumed if your fasting goal is gut rest as it stimulates the digestive system. You can read more about this in the side effects section.

What Is Xylitol?

Xylitol is one of the most common sugar alcohols. It’s a naturally occurring component in fruits and vegetables and can also be made artificially. Xylitol is a common ingredient in oral health products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, and mints.

Like most sugar alcohols, a gram of xylitol contains only a few calories which makes it safe to consume while intermittent fasting. Aside from carbohydrates, xylitol doesn’t provide any nutritional value — it doesn’t contain any vitamins or minerals.

Its low-calorie content makes xylitol a great choice among individuals who are trying to cut their sugar and calorie intake.

Speaking of intermittent fasting, check out the DoFasting app where you can track your intermittent fasting journey, log your calorie intake, and keep yourself accountable. Moreover, you can search for other sweeteners, find out their nutritional value, and whether they break a fast.

Health Benefits of Xylitol

Xylitol was discovered in the late 20th century and gained popularity after Finnish researchers introduced xylitol’s caries-preventing abilities.

Using xylitol to sweeten up your hot beverage or sucking on mints infused with xylitol can improve your overall health. Let’s have at the major health benefits that xylitol offers.

Doesn’t spike blood sugar or insulin

Xylitol is absorbed slower than sugar and has a glycemic index (GI) of 7. This is considered to be a low glycemic index. Sugar, on the other hand, has a GI of 65. GI is a value that shows how quickly certain foods raise your blood sugar levels.

To put it simply, foods with a low glycemic index won’t trigger an insulin response meanwhile foods with a high glycemic index (60 or more) will release glucose into your bloodstream at a faster pace which can spike insulin production.

Moreover, xylitol and other low-GI foods promote weight loss. This is especially beneficial if your intermittent fasting goal is to lose weight.

Good for dental health

Unlike most sugar alcohols, xylitol is actually good for your teeth. There is a reason why it’s a common ingredient in sugar-free chewing gum, mints, and oral care products, after all.

Xylitol can prevent cavities by decreasing the growth of Streptococcus mutans bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria greatly contribute to tooth decay. Xylitol minimizes its growth by starving said bacteria.

To reap the dental health benefits of xylitol, you should consume around 5 grams of xylitol at least 3 times per day. This should be done on a daily basis. Make sure to not go over 40 grams of xylitol per day as it may cause digestive problems, especially if your body is not used to this sweetener.

May increase collagen production

Collagen is a protein that we have the largest amount of inside our bodies. It makes up connective tissue and is a major component in your largest organ — the skin.

Increased collagen production is one of the unique benefits of xylitol consumption. Animal studies suggest that xylitol stimulates collagen synthesis. In addition, some studies have shown that consuming xylitol may thicken the skin.

This means that you can increase your collagen production and, in turn, improve your skin health, by simply having xylitol-infused tea or chewing gum.

Moreover, our bodies don’t produce collagen at the same rate forever. To be more specific, collagen production decreases as we get older. Therefore, it’s worth considering xylitol as an alternative sweetener to counter these effects of aging.

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Side Effects to Be Aware of

Xylitol has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive safe for human consumption. It’s generally well-tolerated, however, it can cause a few uncomfortable side effects in some people. It generally affects the gut and involves bloating, stomach cramps, constipation, and diarrhea.

As mentioned above, xylitol is not the sweetener of choice when it comes to gut rest. Xylitol has been shown to stimulate the same gut hormones (GLP-1 and CCK) that are released during food intake.

In addition to interrupting gut rest and upsetting your digestive system, xylitol may also slow down gastric emptying.

It’s important to note that xylitol is toxic to dogs. If you have dogs at home, make sure that this sweetener is out of their reach.

Other Fasting-Friendly Sweeteners

If your body doesn’t tolerate xylitol, or if its flavor is not for your tastes, there are numerous natural sweeteners that you can consume without breaking your fast.

As the name implies, natural sweeteners, are naturally occurring in nature meaning they can be found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants.

When looking for a sugar substitute, it’s best to avoid artificial sweeteners. While the majority of them are virtually calorie-free, artificial sweeteners have been shown to negatively affect gut health.

Stevia

A non-nutritive sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant. A teaspoon of stevia contains zero calories and zero sugars meaning it will not trigger an insulin response and break your fast. In fact, stevia has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

It’s not surprising that stevia is a popular choice among people trying to lose weight due to its zero-calorie content. What’s more, is that you will only need a little since stevia is 200-400 times sweeter than regular sugar.

Monk fruit

Monk fruit is a zero-calorie and zero-carb natural sweetener with a glycemic index (GI) of zero. This means monk fruit doesn’t raise blood sugar levels and won’t break your fast.

It tastes 200 times sweeter than sugar meaning you need a smaller amount of monk fruit sweetener to achieve the same level of sweetness. It also promotes weight loss by reducing your calorie and sugar intake.

Keep in mind that a lot of sweetener brands load up monk fruit with added sugars, thus removing its zero-carb properties. Make sure to check the ingredient list before making a purchase.

Erythritol

Much like xylitol, erythritol is a sugar alcohol. It’s a naturally occurring component in fruits (like grapes, pears, and peaches), mushrooms, and fermented foods (like cheese, soy sauce, and wine).

If you’re interested in xylitol because of its dental health promoting properties, but you’re not able to have it, consider erythritol. Erythritol, just like xylitol, prevents the growth of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth.

Erythritol is the only sugar alcohol without any calories making it a calorie-free sweetener. You can consume it during your fast as it does not cause an insulin response.

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Does Xylitol Break a Fast: Final Thoughts

Sugar cravings can be difficult to overcome, especially during a fasting window. Luckily for you, xylitol can help you satisfy that sweet tooth.

Does xylitol break a fast? No, as long as you’re consuming it in moderate amounts.

Xylitol contains a few calories and aids in weight loss, although, it may have the opposite effect when it comes to suppressing your appetite. Other benefits of xylitol consumption include blood sugar management, protection from dental caries, and healthier skin.

Similar to artificial sweeteners, xylitol may interrupt gut rest making it a bad choice if your intermittent fasting goal is improved gut health.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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