Birch sugar for fructose intolerance: useful or not?

Birch sugar, also called xylitol or xylitol, is almost as sweet as sugar, but contains far fewer calories. Because birch sugar is also fructose-free, one might think that it is also suitable as a substitute sugar for people with fructose intolerance and intolerance. But caution is advised.

In this article you will learn

  • what birch sugar or xylitol or xylitol is,
  • what health advantages and disadvantages xylitol has and
  • whether birch sugar is suitable as a substitute sugar for fructose intolerance.

What is birch sugar

Birch sugar is also called xylitol or xylitol and, in technical terms, pentane pentol. It belongs to the sugar alcohols and is used as a food additive (E967) and as a sugar substitute. The latter with good reason: Xylitol has almost the same sweetening power as table sugar , but only has about 40 percent of the calories:

  • Sugar: about 400 kilocalories per 100 grams
  • Xylitol: ca. 250 kilocalories per 100 grams

The name birch sugar comes from the fact that xylitol was originally produced from the bark of birch trees through several chemical steps. Today, however, wood and other plant waste are used as raw materials. However, xylitol also occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, albeit in very small amounts.

Birch sugar (xylitol) is a popular ingredient in chewing gum because it combines sweetness and protection against caries.

Another sugar alcohol is more commonly used in sugar-free chewing gum, namely sorbitol . It is cheaper to manufacture and easier to process.

How healthy is birch sugar?

Xylitol has several advantages compared to regular sugar. Birch sugar

  • has an anti-cariogenic effect . The best way to do this is to chew chewing gum containing xylitol for ten to 20 minutes after eating.
  • reduces the build-up of plaque and the build-up of harmful acids on the teeth.
  • Tastes and looks like sugar, but contains fewer calories .
  • As a sugar alcohol it is one of the carbohydrates, but it has a very low glycemic index and does not cause the blood sugar level to rise because it is broken down largely independently of insulin.
  • acts not only against caries bacteria but also against bacteria commonly in children ear infections cause.
  • is a soluble fiber that nourishes your good intestinal bacteria and supports a healthy intestinal flora .
  • could prevent yeast infections because it prevents the yeast Candida albicans from attaching to it.

Studies on rats even suggest that xylitol leads to increased collagen formation and thus possibly has a positive effect on skin aging . In addition, it was found in experiments on rats that birch sugar could protect against osteoporosis.

Sugar alcohols such as xylitol are not synonymous with alcohol and are therefore also harmless for people who are alcoholic.

Xylitol also has disadvantages

  • Birch sugar only provides “empty calories” as it does not contain any vitamins or minerals .
  • Compared to other sweeteners, xylitol is very expensive .
  • In contrast to natural sugar alternatives such as honey, agave syrup or whole cane sugar, birch sugar is heavily processed .
  • In larger amounts (from 40 to 50 grams) xylitol can have a laxative effect , cause diarrhea , intestinal gas and flatulence . All foods that contain birch sugar must therefore have a corresponding warning label.
  • There may be intolerances that are similar to those of fructose malabsorption . Children under the age of three shouldn’t consume xylitol.
  • Extremely high doses over a long period of time are suspected of causing tumors .
  • Xylitol does not contain fructose and can be recommended as a substitute sugar for those with fructose intolerance, but not for those with fructose intolerance .
  • Another special feature: xylitol removes heat from the mouth when it dissolves in saliva. This leaves a special cooling effect that is similar to that of menthol. This effect is used in “ice candy”. If you use it as a normal sweetener, this effect is irritating.
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Is birch sugar fructose-free?

Birch sugar is fructose-free and is therefore a good substitute sugar for so-called hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) . However, such intolerance is very rare and is a serious disease in which the liver is unable to break down fructose due to an enzyme deficiency, which can lead to severe liver and kidney damage.

The far more common intestinal fructose intolerance or fructose malabsorption differs from intolerance: Instead of an enzyme deficiency, a disturbed transport of fructose is to blame for symptoms. Because xylitol can also hinder this mechanism, birch sugar is not recommended for a strictly low-fructose diet .

Tip: In consultation with your doctor, you can try small amounts of birch sugar and observe whether symptoms occur.

Incidentally, a food intolerance or intolerance should not be confused with a food allergy. Although the symptoms may be similar – if it comes to abdominal cramps or diarrhea, for example – an allergy, in contrast to intolerance, is mediated via the immune system.

Suitable sugar alternatives for fructose intolerance are:

  • Glucose (grape sugar)
  • Lactose (milk sugar)
  • Maltose (Malzzucker)
  • Sweetener with aspartame, cyclamate or saccharin
  • Stevia
  • Erythrol
Stevia is one of the healthier sweeteners and can also be used with fructose intolerance.

If you tolerate xylitol well, you can safely use it as a substitute sugar. Because it is so similar in sweetness, appearance and powdery form to table sugar, birch sugar is also ideal for low-calorie cooking and baking – especially since xylitol has no aftertaste like some other sugar alternatives.

Birch sugar for fructose intolerance: useful or not?

Birch sugar, also called xylitol or xylitol, tastes sweet, contains fewer calories than sugar, and has some health benefits over other sweeteners. Xylitol protects against tooth decay and prevents blood sugar levels from rising. In addition, birch sugar is fructose-free and is therefore a good substitute sugar for the – very rare – hereditary fructose intolerance .

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Unfortunately, this is not the case with the much more common fructose malabsorption (also known as intolerance). Birch sugar should not be consumed in large quantities as it has a laxative effect and can lead to diarrhea.

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