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Xylitol is a natural sugar derived from beets or maize that has several interesting properties. It is used as a low-calorie sweetener, safe for diabetics. Chewing gum1 sweetened with xylitol has been shown in scientific studies to reduce tooth decay and even to promote repair of early decay.
It has been previously found in several studies that chewing xylitol gum also helped to prevent ear infections, but one more recent well-contolled study2 in day care attending children failed to confirm a protective effect of xylitol. Since the majority of ear infections occur in children too young to chew gum, this may be something of a moot point.
1. In the US, Trident™, Carefree Kooler™, Orbit™, Clen Dent™, Spry™, B-Fresh™, Zapp™, and XlearDent™. In Europe, most gums are sweetened with xylitol.
2. Failure of xylitol given three times a day for preventing acute otitis media. Hautalahti O Pediatr Infect Dis J 01-MAY-2007; 26(5): 423-7.