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HEALTHY MADE EASY
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Protein For Adolescents

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Teenagers have an increased protein need, especially if they take part in physical activity. 
  • New techniques show that teenagers need more protein than what the is suggested by the World Health Organisation. 
  • Teenagers can meet their daily protein needs from food alone by selecting complete protein sources. 
  • Teenagers relying on plant-based protein sources need to educate themselves on protein source combinations.
  • Supplements are not meant to replace foods but are convenient ways to assist teenagers in meeting their protein needs. 

Protein is essential for good health. In fact, the origin of the word, from the Greek word “Protos”, means “first, which shows the pivotal role of protein for the human body. 

The most celebrated role of the protein we eat from food is the growth and maintenance of the body.

Protein also supports a vast number of processes in the body like energy production, the production of hormones, enzymes and nervous system chemicals (neurotransmitters). 

Protein is particularly important for dolescents need protein to maintain existing lean body mass and to add additional lean body mass during the adolescent growth spurt. 

Protein requirements are highest for females in the 11 to 14 year age range and for males in the 15 to 18 year age range.

Protein needs are even higher for adolescents engaged in sports and physical exercise due to the extra demands imposed by exercise. 

Inadequate intake of protein leads to reductions in growth and delays in sexual maturation.

How Much Protein Do Adolescents Need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein intake for individuals of all age groups is currently set at a modest 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (0.8g/ kg/ day).

It needs to be emphasised that the RDA is the amount of a nutrient needed to meet basic nutritional requirements. In other words, it is the minimum amount needed daily to prevent you from getting sick from deficiency diseases (to survive) rather than the specific amount you are supposed to eat every day (to thrive).

According to newer methods of determining protein requirements in children and adolescents, it is recommended to obtain 1.2-1.5g protein per day per kilogram of bodyweight, which translates into 72 to 90g of protein for a 60kg teenager.

This range caters for both active and less active teenagers. More active teenagers may need the higher end of the range because physical activity (e.g. exercise and sports) increases protein needs.

Protein Nutrition 101

Protein from food is digested into units called amino acids that the body absorbs and reassembles into various body proteins.

There are 20 amino acids from foods that are needed by the body to make body proteins, 8 of which are termed essential amino acids as they cannot be made by the body and must necessarily be obtained from the diet. 

The recommended amount of protein may easily be obtained from the diet but care must be taken to choose foods that contain all the essential amino acids. 

Complete and Incomplete Proteins

Protein foods are classified into either complete or incomplete proteins. 

Complete protein foods contain all the essential amino acids. Incomplete protein foods, conversely, do not contain the full profile of essential amino acids in sufficient amounts. 

A diet based on incomplete proteins can affect body functions and eventually lead to protein malnutrition and therefore it is best to prioritise foods with a complete essential amino acid profile.  

Recommended Protein Sources

Generally speaking, animal proteins are considered complete proteins while plant-based proteins typically lack one or more of the essential amino acids to make them complete proteins. 

For instance, grains lack the essential amino acid lysine while legumes lack the essential amino acid methionine. Interestingly, each of these protein sources contain the amino acid that the other lacks and therefore care must be taken to make the right combinations by those relying mostly on plant-based proteins. 

A word on Supplements

Protein supplements are increasingly common and are pushed by a lot of marketing tactics.  

However, protein needs can be met by solid food alone and supplements are not meant as a replacement for solid food nutrition. Neither does supplementation lead to increased performance and health.

Supplements fill the gaps in nutrition and are convenient when a solid meal is not possible or not desired.

A case may be made for supplementation in vegetarians who avoid high protein foods like eggs, meat, fish and chicken. In this case, supplementation may be recommended after a careful evaluation of the diet, using milk-derived proteins.

Protein powders are very versatile and can be included in numerous foods and beverages like pancakes, cereals and smoothies.

When it comes to protein supplements, it is very important to make informed decisions as there are different types of protein and many among them contain unwanted additives, inferior protein grades and potentially harmful ingredients.

Our Protein Powder Selection Guide makes it easy for you to pick the best protein powder for you.

Author Bio
Veeraj Goyaram, 
MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude,

BSc (Hons) Biology with Human Nutrition

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

 

Don’t Fear Fruits

According to us fruits deserve the nickname “nature’s healthy fast foods” because they are generally affordable, accessible, and loaded with nutrients.

Unfortunately, the belief that fruit is healthy has been challenged mainly due to its high content of sugar relative to other foods, particularly of fructose the so-called “bad sugar”.

However, this thinking is both unfair and incorrect because the naturally-present fructose in fruits is not equal to the added fructose in processed foods.

Let us see the reasons to not fear fruits. 

Fruit Rhymes With Fructose
Sweet drinks contain huge amounts of sugar

The sugar fructose was so named because of its natural presence in fruits (“fru”=fructose=fruit sugar).

Fructose has been linked to the development of obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, hypertension and fatty liver disease (1).

However, the bulk of the evidence incriminating fructose comes from studies in which animals had been fed very high amounts of fructose (2, 3). 

Fructose can indeed cause harm but this is dependent on the amount consumed. The dose makes the poison, as goes the saying. Being a published fructose researcher (4) I can attest to this.  

Certainly, because fruits contain fructose doesn’t make them dangerous.

The fructose dose ingested from the recommended daily intake of fresh fruits is relatively small.  

How is naturally-occurring fructose in fruits different from added fructose in processed foods?

Bowl of fresh healthy fruit salad on white background

Scenario A: Ingesting fructose from fruits

Let us take the example of apples.

One large apple contains 23g of sugar, 13g of which is fructose.

How many large apples can a person eat in one sitting? 2-3 at most before feeling full and satisfied. That’s about 39g of fructose. 

Apples, like the majority of fruits, contains a lot of fibre which makes quite filling and difficult to overeat. 

Importantly, the fibre also ensures that the fruits are slowly digested so that the fructose is slowly released and has time to be metabolised by the liver (5).

The liver is the main site where fructose is metabolised in the body after it is absorbed from the intestines. If too much fructose hits the liver rapidly, the liver starts to synthesise fats as a means to get rid of the excess fructose (6).

This is how a long-term high fructose diet can lead to fatty liver and the deposition of fat in other tissues like muscle leading to insulin resistance and diabetes.  

With whole fruits, the is no such worry as the fibre ensures a slow supply of fructose to the liver to allow complete metabolism (7).

Scenario B: Ingesting fructose from soft drinks

Now contrast this with a 500ml bottle of soft drink which contains about 50g of sucrose, 25g of which is fructose (sucrose is 50% fructose and glucose bound together).

The soft drink, unlike whole fruits, has little effect on satiety so it is easy to overdrink. You can feel a little thirsty on a hot day and go for the whole bottle within an hour. 

Besides, soft drinks (and clear fruit juices, as we will see below) are devoid of fibre.

The result is that the fructose hits the liver rapidly and the liver has no time to metabolise it. The result is an excess production of fats in the liver leading to the problems highlighted above.

“You cannot compare 20g of fructose from whole fruits with an equivalent dose from soft drink”

Let’s Not Forget the Other Goodies in fruits!

A. Nature’s Multivitamins & Minerals

Fruits are excellent sources of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds like enzymes, polyphenols and other phytochemicals, all of which can positively impact health (8). 

A medium orange packs about 116% of your DV of Vitamin C and 10% of Folate.

B. Polyphenols 

Polyphenols are compounds found in fruits that have been associated with benefits like improved blood sugar control in diabetics (9), reduced DNA damage and improved cardiovascular health.

A diet rich in the polyphenol called flavonoids (e.g. 50ml/ day of pomegranate juice) significantly reduced blood pressure in hypertensives (10).

Another group of polyphenols called anthocyanins are abundant in dark-colored fruits like blueberry. Many studies suggest that increased consumption of anthocyanins lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes (11). 

C. Fibre 

Fibre does more than just keep your bowel movements regular. Fibre has been found to contribute to reduced cholesterol levels, improved blood sugar control, increased satiety contributing to weight loss.

Something that you may not know about is that fibre also contains polyphenols locked in. These are called non-extractable polyphenols and are liberated by the action of bacteria in the intestines.

Fibre also serve as a source of food for beneficial bacteria in your intestines and beneficial bacteria make do more than just make B-vitamins as previously thought: they fight off harmful bacteria and produce mood-regulating hormones. 

Getting Your Daily FruitAre fruit juices healthy?

Is Fruit Juice Okay?

While whole fruits are healthy, the same cannot be said for fruit juices

Juicing eliminates the fibre in fruits or greatly reduces the content and that’s the root of most of the problems with fruit juices.

A recent study reported that replacing blueberry juice with an equal amount of whole blueberries decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by an astounding 33% (12).

Commercial fruit juices are worse because they often contain added colourants to make them more attractive, preservatives to extend the shelf life and added sugar to make them sweet. 

You are invited to check our our post on whole fruits vs fruit juices.

What about Dried and Frozen Fruits?

Dried fruits have a higher concentration of fructose because the dehydration process concentrates the sugar.

Dried fruits are yummy and it is possible to overeat and ingest a high dose of fructose. These should be consumed in moderation.

Crystallised fruits are to be avoided as they are cooked in sugar and the sugar content can be astronomical. 

Frozen fruits contain more or less the same amount of fructose as fresh fruits.

Freezing may be a good option for keeping your fruits for a longer time. Frozen fruits lend themselves well to smoothies and are a great way to load up on micronutrients and fibre.

Recent studies have shown that freezing preserves most vitamins better than storage at room temperature and refrigerating (13)

 

Author Bio
Veeraj Goyaram, 
MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude,

BSc (Hons) Biology with Human Nutrition

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Mastering Food Labels Part 1: Nutritional Facts

Understanding nutrition labels is important to assist you in making healthy choices come shopping time. 

This series of articles equips you with the basic knowledge to decipher food labels. We also give you insights into the little tricks of the trade that food manufacturers use on their labels.  

In Part 1 of this series we take a closer look at the nutritional section that lists the following:

►Serving size

►The typical nutritional information table. 

► The Ingredient list

► The list of allergens

Serving Size 

The serving size is clearly specified (50g of product). Often the company indicates how many standard measures are needed to achieve this amount (e.g. 5 tablespoons).

The nutritional information is listed for both the recommended serving of product and for 100 g of solid foods or each 100 ml of liquids.

The number of servings per container is often given for products sold in larger sizes which contains several servings.

Tip: It is important to be careful as sometimes the serving size is smaller than what a person would typically consume. Therefore, it is important that you calculate the nutrition information based on the amount you are actually consuming.

The Typical Nutritional Information Table

The typical nutritional information table is required by law (1) to have 3 columns:

Column 1: Listing the energy content and the nutrients. 

Column 2: amount of energy and each nutrient per recommended serving of product. 

Column 3: amount of energy and nutrient per 100g or 100ml portion of product. This allows consumers to easily make comparisons among products by comparing equal amounts. 

The NRV column: The fourth column in the example above is optional and shows the percentage of the Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) for certain nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NRV is simply the amount of nutrients recommended on a daily basis for individuals 4 years and older. Therefore, in each serving of the above product you are getting 30% of your recommended daily requirement of Vitamin A, B1, B2, Iron, Magnesium and Selenium.

The Energy (kJ) Content

The energy content of food products is given in Kilojoules although we more commonly use “Calories (Kcal)” as a unit of energy. If you want to find out the energy content in calories simply use this simple conversion factor: 1 calorie = 4.12 kJ.

The Protein Content

The protein content is given in grams. Nothing complicated here. 

The Carbohydrate Content

Glycaemic carbohydrates refers to the carbohydrates that enters metabolism and supplies energy. Previously, the term “Total Carbohydrate” was used but not all carbohydrates supply energy. For instance, erythritol classifies as a carbohydrate but is not a glycaemic carbohydrate. 

The amount of sugar is also listed, which is a good thing. Keep in mind that in other products the sugar may not necessarily refer to table sugar (sucrose) only but also other forms like lactose (milk sugar), dextrose (glucose) or fructose (fruit sugar). 

We need not tell you to choose products with a low sugar content. 

Prentresultaat vir trans fats health effectsThe Total fat and cholesterol Content

The fat content is required to be given in terms of total fat.

The amount of the different subgroups that constitute the total fats are also given, like saturated fat, unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fats and trans fat.

Unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are acceptable although they also contain a lot of calories. It is best to avoid foods with a lot of trans fats because they are harmful. 

The Vitamin and mineral content

The vitamin and mineral (micronutrient) amounts listed on the labels are either from those present already in the ingredients or from added vitamins and minerals. 

If the label does not list the micronutrient content it means that it does not contain a substantial amount because to be listed at least 5% of the NRV of the nutrient must be present.

The Sodium content

This is a very important thing to look at. As a rule of thumb, limit the sodium to less than 1,500mg per day from all sources. 

The Ingredient List

The ingredients are listed in descending order of weight. The ingredient used in the highest amount is listed first. It is always a good idea to check the ingredients list and note the position of sugar, sugar sources and salt.

Allergen Declaration

Labels need to include the sources of allergens in the product. In our example, soy is listed as an allergen as it present in one of the ingredients. Other examples of allergens are eggs, milk, nuts and crustaceans.

Additionally, manufacturers disclose whether their products have been processed in facilities that handle common allergens. 

 

About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Seniors: Why Make Protein Your BFF! [With Infographic]

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • We lose muscle tissue as we age and this is not a good thing to allow to happen. 
  • To counter muscle loss, a high protein diet is recommended.  
  • It has been found that the current RDA of protein is only adequate to survive but inadequate to thrive. 
  • A higher protein intake, evenly spaced over several meals, with about 30-45g of protein per meal is recommended. 
  • Physical exercise in combination with high protein intake gives the best results. 
  • Supplements can assist those who battle with appetite.

Consuming enough protein should not be a priority only for athletes and the young and growing. Seniors stand to benefit from consuming higher amounts of protein too.

The reason for the higher protein recommendation is that at around the age of 40 the human body begins to lose protein, mostly from muscle. This gradual loss of muscle, medically termed sarcopenia (1)

Cross section of leg muscle showing loss of muscle and infiltration of fat tissue. Cross-sectional area does not change much.

The Consequences of Muscle Loss

❶ Loss of muscular strength makes it harder to do things.

❷ Weaker muscles mean that there is reduced mobility and independence.

❸ Reduced ability to maintain normal blood sugar levels as muscles is an important site of glucose uptake. This increases the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes.

❹ Muscle is metabolically-active tissue that burns calories. Losing it makes fat easier to accumulate. Although bodyweight may not change much on the scale, fat is being replaced by muscle. 

 

As scary as this may sound, declines in skeletal muscle mass and strength are major contributors to increased mortality and reduced quality of life in older people.

The two proven approaches to fight age-related muscle loss are:

a. Consuming greater than recommended amounts of dietary protein frequently throughout the day

b. Combining the above with being physically active. 

Why More Protein?farmer old man in studio

Dietary protein stimulates the synthesis of muscle proteins. This process goes on in full swing in younger individuals but somehow with age, the muscles lose the responsiveness to the stimulatory effect of dietary protein and thus cannot be maintained easily.

This phenomenon is known as anabolic resistance and is one of the key causes of age-related muscle loss, the other causes being a drop in hormone levels and lack of exercise.

What’s wrong with our current protein RDA?

The current recommendations (Recommended Daily Allowance-RDA) is currently set at 0.8g protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day (0.8g/ kg BW/ day) for all adults regardless of age and sex.

Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all recommendation does not consider the changes in metabolism that comes with age (2). 

Some avant-garde organisations like the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN) have established the following guidelines (3): 

 1 and 1.2 g/kg a day for healthy older people.

 1.2-1.5 g/ kg/ day for older people who have acute or chronic illness

 An even higher intake (2g/ kg BW/ day) for older individuals with severe illness or injury, or actively exercising (4).

Practical Recommendations

A. Consume More total daily protein14172094_722257704579438_1126576326_n

A good starting point is to consume about 1.2g/ kg/ day. The higher protein recommendations do not translate into a lot more food. For instance, a 70kg person needs 84g of protein per day split over several meals. 

If you have any kidney problems, we recommend speaking to your doctor before embarking on a high protein diet.

B. More protein at each meal.

While it takes an intake of 20g protein per meal to fully maximise protein synthesis in muscle, seniors need a higher intake per meal to experience the similar tissue-building effects.

Research has situated this dose at about 30-45g of protein per meal (5)

C. Space protein meals evenly.

Most people hit their highest protein intake at their dinner time meal. Lunchtime meal is a little lower in protein and breakfast is most often lowest in protein.

The current recommendation is to have 1-2 meals a day that contain the recommended 30-45 g protein per meal. 

D. Look for high quality proteins

High quality proteins are sourcHealthy fitness elderly couple. Sport and exercise concept.es of protein in your diet that contains all the essential amino acids to make the proteins within our bodies.

High quality protein sources also contain a lot of other nutrients and that includes calcium, iron and lots of other vitamins and minerals. 

Sources of high quality protein might vary from foods that we traditionally recognise like milk and dairy products, eggs, lean meats, but they can also include items like beans and legumes and peas. 

E. Get Active

Physical activity and exercise are important tools to counter muscle loss. Exercise is an important stimulator of protein synthesis in muscle and exercise in combination with higher protein intake gives the best effect. 

Get clearance from your doctor and get help from a biokineticist to devise you an ideal program.

F. Food vs. Supplements

If enough protein can be obtained from the diet, supplementation is not necessary.

However, protein supplements, as long as you can find one without unwanted additives and adulterants, can help because they are convenient and easy to consume especially for those who battle with appetite.

Protein supplements are generally based on whey protein which is high in essential amino acids, particularly the amino acid Leucine which is an important trigger for muscle protein synthesis.

The best vegan protein supplements are based on pea protein isolate, brown rice protein or hemp protein or a blend thereof.

Use our Protein Supplement Selection Guide to find your way through the maze of protein supplements on the market.

About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Calcium Supplements: Proceed With Caution [With Infographic]

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • Calcium supplementation is a very common practice. 
  • Recent evidence shows that long-term calcium intake in high doses from supplements may do more harm than good.   
  • There is an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes seen in those taking calcium supplements.
  • Supplementing with calcium increases blood levels too rapidly, leading to increased probability of blood clotting and deposition of calcium in arteries, leading to their blockage.
  • This risk is not seen when calcium is taken from food maybe because the calcium from food is released more slowly.  

Calcium plays a key role in the biology of the human body. Besides its celebrated role in the development of bones and teeth, calcium is involved in processes like nerve signal transmission, blood circulation and hormone release. 

Calcium is among the most commonly used supplements, with most users citing “bone health” as the main reason for using it.

Calcium supplements are available in the form of tablets, capsules, powder and effervescent tablets. 

Meeting the recommended intake of calcium is important as a deficiency would lead to the body using its reserves from bone and teeth, leaving them weaker. 

Calcium and Increased heart disease risk

Calcium supplementation has recently come under fire after studies found that the potential benefits are countered by a number of drawbacks (1), namely a:

►17% higher risk of getting kidney stones.

►20-40% increase in the risk of heart attacks.

►12-20% increase in the risk of stroke.

What is the available evidence?

Researchers from the US Cancer Research Institute tracked 219059 men and 169170 women over 12 years and found that men who took more than 1000mg/ day of calcium via supplements had a 20% higher risk of total cardiovascular death than participants taking no Calcium (2).

This is probably caused by the deposition of calcium in the coronary arteries when intakes are too high, a phenomenon known as Coronary artery calcification (CAC). 

The Journal of the American Heart Association recently published a study (3) (2016) that assessed the link between the risk of CAC and calcium intake, showed that, after 10 years of follow-up, calcium supplement use was associated with increased risk for CAC. 

How does this happen?

A possible explanation is that calcium supplements may acutely elevate calcium levels in blood. 

The increased calcium levels can favour blood clotting as calcium is an important clotting factor. Acute increases in calcium levels can also cause the deposition of calcium in blood vessels, leading to a hardening of the arteries. Both these effects increase the risk of heart disease. 

It has been suggested by some experts that taking Vitamin D, which increases the absorption of Calcium, can reduce the potential risk.

It must be noted that the consumption of foods rich in calcium was found to not increase the cardiovascular risk (4), which suggests that nutritional intake should be prioritized 

It must be noted that the addition to the supplement protocol of Vitamin D, known to help calcium absorption, did not help (5, 6)

 

About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

Xylitol: Risks and Benefits.

Here’s What You Need to Know:

  • Xylitol is a very popular sugar replacer that is as sweet as sugar. 
  • Xylitol is often believed to be calorie-free but in reality it has only 40% less calories than sugar.  
  • Xylitol in excess can upset your tummy.
  • Xylitol is also toxic to dog and potentially other animals as well.
  • There are safer alternatives to xylitol, namely stevia and erythritol-stevia combinations. 

Xylitol is a popular sweetener offered as a sugar-replacer to diabetics and anyone seeking a healthier sweetener alternative for health reasons. 

Xylitol is the darling of sugar replacers and is mainly used on its own in the form of white crystals. Xylitol also found its way gradually in a number of food and beverage products like low-calorie or sugar-free confectioneries, soft drinks, mints and ice-cream.  

The Pros of Xylitol

The great thing about xylitol is that it is as sweet as sugar and can thus be used as a 1:1 sugar replaStevia with sugar on a brown bowlcer, and has less calories than sugar.

Xylitol is also advantageous because it does not increase blood sugar level significantly following consumption.

Thus, xylitol has a low glycaemic index (GI), a characteristic that makes it ideal for diabetics (1).

□ GI of xylitol: 13

□ GI of sugar: 65

□ GI of glucose: 100

Unlike sugars, xylitol cannot be broken down by bacteria in the mouth to cause dental decay. Xylitol is, therefore, said to be protective against dental caries (2,3).

There are a few facts that xylitol users need to remember that are often not emphasised enough.Twitter

Fact #1: Excess Xylitol Can Cause Intestinal Distress.

man-with-abdominal-painXylitol takes time to be absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore a lot remains in the intestines before being absorbed. This can give digestive distress if one is not used to consume this sweetener or consumed in high amounts (4).  

The xylitol that remains in the intestines attracts water and causes diarhoea and loose stools.

Furthermore, some of the xylitol is fermented by bacteria residing in the intestines, leading to the production of gas and bloating.

What is a safe dosage?

Any amount above 40-50g consumed in a day (total intake) can give digestive issues.

In terms of a dose taken at once, studies have found that that anything above 20g taken at once can give gastro-intestinal distress (4). This is equivalent to about 5 teaspoons of xylitol in pure crystalline form.

But the good news is that the body adapts fairly well to xylitol consumption. It is best to begin with smaller amounts if you are starting to switch to xylitol.

How much xylitol do products contain?

The possibility of an overdose is higher when consuming xylitol from pure crystalline sources and perhaps beverages, rather than sweets, mints and chewing gums.

1 teaspoon of powdered xylitol: 4 grams of xylitol.

1 chewing gum or mint: 0.3g of xylitol (varies according to product).

100g sugar-free ice cream: 6.8g xylitol.

For new users, it is always a good idea to read labels to understand how much xylitol you may be ingesting.

Fact #2: Xylitol is Toxic to Dogspv-xylitol-pet-alert

The increased marketing and use of xylitol as a sweetener in recent years has led to increased risk of pet exposure to this agent.

Xylitol is harmful to dogs and is toxic even in small amounts. When xylitol is accidentally ingested, the dog’s body respond by secreting a massive amount of insulin (5).

As you know, insulin is the hormone that decreases blood sugar levels. The result of this massive increase in insulin is abnormally low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia) which can be fatal. Also, xylitol causes damage to liver cells, leading to liver failure.

The dose that is harmful to dogs is extremely low. Values between 0.03 to 0.1g xylitol/ kilogram of bodyweight of animal have been reported as toxic. 

With regard to toxicity to other pet animals, like cats, there isn’t much research done on this topic but vet advise to advise extreme caution. 

In 2015 a case was reported in Hermanus, Cape Town of 30 Cape Sugarbirds dropping dead shortly after having ingested water containing xylitol (6).

We would advise to refrain from feeding xylitol to any other pet animals.

Practical applications

If you are a xylitol user who counts calories, make sure to factor in the fact that xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram.

If you are new to xylitol proceed with caution and start with a low dosage.

Don’t give xylitol to pets. Make sure to spread this information.

If you want a zero calorie alternative to xylitol that belongs to the same family consider erythritol. We wrote an article on erythritol (here).

About the Author

Veeraj Goyaram, MSc (Med) Exer. Sci (UCT) cum laude, BSc (Hons) Biology.

Veeraj’s passion revolves around researching and developing nutritional products for optimal health and performance, with a particular interest in sports, child and diabetic nutrition products. Veeraj was previously based as a graduate student at the University of Cape Town, where he examined the effect of exercise and nutrition on the function of genes in muscle. His research was published in renowned scientific journals and medical textbooks on Diabetes and Exercise (PubMed listing). Veeraj keeps healthy by regularly lifting weights and taking daily walks.

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