June 18, 2018
by LG Nixon
Most of us try to maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes eating healthy, getting regular exercise and interacting with friends to keep our minds and spirits sharp. Whether it is a personal goal, or for health related issues such as food allergies or disease, many of us actively
seek alternative choices for our foods and their ingredients. Choices today include Gluten Free (GF), Dairy Free (DF), Egg Free (EF), Soy Free (SF), Vegetarian, Vegan, and the list goes on.
Going sugar-free seems to be on everyone’s list. To reduce our caloric intake, we avoid sugar and high fructose corn syrup. As a result, a plethora of alternative sweeteners announcing fewer calories than sugar, or zero calories, have leaped into markets, grocery stores, and health food stores. And while these alternatives are supposedly “good for you,” these ingredients are sneaking into many foods and beverages, and non-food products, too. They are even in your
toothpaste. Do you really need a sweet tasting toothpaste?
A popular sweetener is Xylitol. According to Wikipedia.com, industrial production begins with a polymer extracted from hardwoods, or corn cobs. (Sure, I eat those everyday. Don’t you?) This polymer, called Xylan and derived from the crushed plant fiber, is manipulated through multi-step processes into another chemical which is further manipulated into Xylitol, a sugar alcohol. It can also be produced through multi-step microbial processes which include the fermentation and biocatalytic processing of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. Sound yummy? According to xylitol.org, Xylitol made from birch wood uses sulfuric acid to extract the polymer, or corn cob sourced uses hydrogen, hydrochloric acid and steam. Most producers use corn cobs because
of greater availability. (You know, if it has to go through several chemical processes, somehow it just doesn’t sound natural to me, but that’s just my opinion.) At usda.gov, there are numerous articles concerning the production of Xylitol from various sources, including corn fiber treated with a resin to enhance the fermentation process.
This manipulated “natural” sweetener is found in chewing gum, toothpaste, baked goods, pop and colas, low-calorie peanut butter (DO NOT give it to Fido), and you can find recipes which have been converted for the use of Xylitol as a sugar substitute, mainly because it is represented as a “natural” product with amazing health benefits and zero calories. Naturally occurring Xylitol is found in many fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, apples, and carrots. The minuscule amount found in these treats means Fido and Meow-man would have to chow down a large amount to make them sick. Check the approved fruit and vegetable listing found at AKC.org under the article “Fruits and Vegetables Dogs Can and Can’t Eat.”
A comprehensive article at DrAxe.com, by Dr. Josh Axe, titled “The 5 Worst Artificial Sweeteners,” details these controversial artificial sweeteners. Please read the article and its links for a list of these man-made sweeteners and their consequences. When you read what some of the processes are for making these “sweeteners,” it just might curl your hair, or rather, help you lose it faster. Further reading suggestions are Dr. Axe’s article “Xylitol Side Effects: Safe or Dangerous.” This is an excellent reference article on the potential dangers caused by
consumption of artificial sweeteners.
As stated at webmd.com, not enough is known about the use of Xylitol during pregnancy and breast-feeding. They recommend avoiding it altogether. There is also concern that long term use or high doses of Xylitol can cause tumors, and it goes on to state that “it’s probably safe for children as a medicine (up to 20 grams per day).”
XYLITOL IS PROVEN TO KILL YOUR PET: Even small amounts, like in a stick of chewing gum, minutes after being ingested, and particularly in small breed dogs, can cause life threatening, acute low blood sugar. Please go to petpoisonhelpline.com to read their information on Xylitol poisoning.
Symptoms of Xylitol poisoning include: lethargy, weakness or collapse, tremors, vomiting, seizures, jaundice and coma or death. All size dogs are susceptible to Xylitol, and larger ingestions can cause liver damage and necrosis (the death of most or all of the cells in an organ or tissue ).
A complete list of symptoms is available at petpoisonhelpline.com, along with numerous articles regarding Xylitol. Even xylitol.org has issued a warning on their website regarding the poison hazard to dogs.
Xylitol poisoning can happen very quickly, and depending on the amount ingested, fatal. We are all guilty of occasionally giving our dogs, and yes, cats too, a treat from the table. After all, who hasn’t laughed at Fido’s antics, licking a spoonful of peanut butter. It’s the treat that keeps on giving. Sometimes we do it without even thinking if it is okay for Fido or Meow-man to eat. Please, read the label before you purchase an item. You might be surprised what it contains.
BEWARE OF SUGAR-FREE CHEWING GUM AND CANDIES: Loved by dentists for its ability to reduce cavities, chewing gum is often sweetened with Xylitol. Many manufacturers offer gum in nuggets (little irregular shaped pieces), as well as sticks. An open bag
of these pieces and bits can easily spill, and the sweet smelling pieces entice Fido to swoop in for a deadly treat.
BUYER BEWARE: Processed foods of all kinds are now using this sweetener. Bakeries are using it for their diabetic versions of low calorie, or sugar-free baked goods like muffins, cupcakes and cookies. It’s in low calorie peanut butters, and it can be found in our condiments as well. And it is also available in bulk in packaged granular form for home use.
Before slipping Fido a tidbit from the table, check your ingredient listing for Xylitol. Even if it isn’t listed, check the “sugar-alcohol content” on the nutrition label if available. If it lists a sugar alcohol, please don’t give this item to your beloved pet. Xylitol could be lurking in this vague, obscure description.
If you suspect your pet has eaten something containing Xylitol, seek medical attention immediately! Contact your veterinarian or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661.
Should you decide to do a little research on Xylitol, you will not only find sites telling you the dangers, but also sites that hype the benefits of Xylitol. After all, it’s recommended by dentists and Xylitol chewing gum is sold by many healthcare providers for tooth health and
prevention of tooth decay. Some sites also claim it can help control blood sugar, reduce weight and belly fat, fight yeast infections, increase collagen production, and maybe even reverse osteoporosis. Really? Sounds like one of those miracle elixirs the medicine man would peddle, doesn’t it? Hmm.
Let’s get real, people. Just use cane sugar, or beet sugar, or honey, maple, or agave, and be a responsible adult by eating less of it. Then Fido can have a bite of your blueberry muffin. Ooo! Did someone say “apples and peanut butter?” Move over Fido!