Xylitol: A Short History

Approved for use in more than 35 countries. Xylitol has been used commercially for over 30 years.

Discovered in 1891 by German chemist Emil Fischer, xylitol remained relatively unappreciated until the sugar shortages in Finland during World War II. Without a domestic supply of sugar, the Fins began using xylitol.

Researchers in Finland have been working with a natural sweetener called xylitol for the last 30 years. There, massive health education programs have been used to educate the public on the enormous health benefits and safety of using xylitol. In Russia it has been used for decades as a sweetener for diabetics, in Germany in solutions for intravenous feeding, and in China, xylitol has been used for various medical purposes. Virtually unknown in Japan 3 to 4 years ago, xylitol sales have soared to over 400 million dollars yearly.

Today, xylitol has been extremely well researched with around 1,500 published studies. Xylitol has been used as a sweetening agent in human food since the 1960s. Xylitol is currently approved for use in foods, pharmaceuticals, and oral health products in more than 35 countries. In 1986, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) was commissioned by the US FDA to review all relevant data concerning xylitol and other polyols. FASEB reported that the use of xylitol is safe for humans and acceptable as an approved food additive in foods for special dietary uses. In 1983, the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), a scientific advisory board allocated an Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) definition of not specified for xylitol. This indicates that xylitol is extremely safe and that no consumption limits are needed. In detail JECFA recommended an unlimited ADI based on the safety of xylitol. This type of specification reflects the safest category in which this committee can place a food additive. Additionally, JECFA recommended that no additional toxicology studies were needed.