The Pentose (5-carbon) sugars

Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Even among nutritionally astute colleagues, there is a common misunderstanding about sugars in general and hexose (6 carbon) and pentose (5 carbon) sugars in particular. Here below is a note from a lady whose nutritional advice has helped thousands of people. She does a great service by specializing in helping people shed their skin disease eczema – which she correctly understands to be the consequence of a biochemical imbalance and a healing gesture of the body (All endogenous rashes represent an effort on the body’s part to excrete toxins and as such are healing gestures). In the note below, she is explaining to me why she believes that xylitol is bad for people. Despite her unscientific and illogical reasoning, I respect her effort to clean up peoples’ diets. But her note occasioned the opportunity to share the merits of pentoses which are worth understanding and appreciating.

“Hello Dr. Weeks: The body recognizes sugar from fruits and veggies as the only type of sugar it is capable of processing and working with to produce energy.  Sugar from fruits has six carbon atoms in its molecule (i.e., fructose), but xylitol from corn or other natural sources called sugar alcohols have a five-carbon molecule.  So, to the body, xylitol molecules are foreign molecules.  It is such a simple sweetener without any of the good other nutrients that are in food sources, therefore, it can cause disturbances to the digestive system.  The negative effects are similar to drinking alcohol which has lots of simple sugars.  These sugars will ferment and cause problems in the gut such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Therefore, to the body xylitol is a chemical not a beneficial nutrient.”

To rebut, let’s take this line for line and carefully consider each statement.

Her statements will be in RED, my comments will be in BLACK,  and 3rd party references will be in BLUE

1) The body recognizes sugar from fruits and veggies as the only type of sugar it is capable of processing and working with to produce energy. 

This is entirely inaccurate. The human body extracts sugars from all plants which contain carbohydrates. “Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which the body can not breakdown or absorb which means that in the gut it acts like a soluble fibre.  Soluble fibres get fermented by the gut flora into short chain fatty acids which can be absorbed and used as energy by the host animal.” https://www.quora.com/How-does-xylitol-affect-the-microbiome?share=1

2) Sugar from fruits has six carbon atoms in its molecule (i.e., fructose), but xylitol from corn or other natural sources called sugar alcohols have a five-carbon molecule. 

This statement is mostly accurate but not meaningful or relevant from a health perspective: xylitol is not quite an alcohol nor a sugar. “Scientists call them sugar alcohols because part of their structure chemically resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohol, but they don’t completely fit into either category.” (Sources: WAPF Foundation and About Xylitol)” http://www.curetoothdecay.com/Tooth_Decay/xylitol_tooth_decay.htm

3) So, to the body, xylitol molecules are foreign molecules. 

This is entirely false and inaccurate. The human body produces xylitol on a daily basis (about five to ten grams) from the carbohydrate metabolism of the food you eat. Your body also produces the enzymes xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase to metabolize it properly. http://fixyourgut.com/xylitol/

4) It is such a simple sweetener without any of the good other nutrients that are in food sources, 

This is mostly accurate since there are no minerals or vitamins in xylitol as there are in my bees’ honey, but xylitol does create energy for enhancing life processes including cellular metabolism. “Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which the body can not breakdown or absorb which means that in the gut it acts like a soluble fibre.  Soluble fibres get fermented by the gut flora into short chain fatty acids which can be absorbed and used as energy by the host animal.” https://www.quora.com/How-does-xylitol-affect-the-microbiome?

5) therefore, it can cause disturbances to the digestive system. 

The factual statement is that xylitol, when taken in excess, can cause loosening of the stool which is due in part to detoxification and voiding of the yeast (candida) and toxic bacteria (strept mutans) which xylitol kills as well as an “osmotic” or bulk action effect causing loose stools: “…xylitol can have an osmotic effect on the gut which can cause further gut upset and diarrhoea.  The impact upon fat absorption and increased water contents in the gut will alter the gut microbiota due to the change of physiological parameters in the gut environment.” https://www.quora.com/How-does-xylitol-affect-the-microbiome?share=1

6) The negative effects are similar to drinking alcohol which has lots of simple sugars.  Eating Xylitol is in no significant manner similar to drinking alcohol. Here is what a critic of xylitol says: “Scientists call them sugar alcohols because part of their structure chemically resembles sugar and part is similar to alcohol, but they don’t completely fit into either category.” (Sources: WAPF Foundation and About Xylitol)” http://www.curetoothdecay.com/Tooth_Decay/xylitol_tooth_decay.htm

7) These sugars will ferment and cause problems in the gut such as gas, bloating and diarrhea.  Google   “Does xylitol ferment in the gut” and this is what you find: http://www.drmyhill.co.uk/wiki/Fermentation_in_the_gut_and_CFS. Searching “xylitol” in that document discovers only this sentence with xylitol: “Conclusion: “One preparation containing xylitol seems sensible because xylitol further helps kill microbes.”

In addition this is interesting

Rich Bailey, Scientist working in poultry health specializing in gut physiology and microbiology: Xylitol is a sugar alcohol which the body can not breakdown or absorb which means that in the gut it acts like a soluble fibre.  Soluble fibres get fermented by the gut flora into short chain fatty acids which can be absorbed and used as energy by the host animal.  Xylitol therefore gives a nutrient source to the gut bacteria which can result in a fluctuation in the bacterial composition – there is always a risk when the normal gut flora gets disturbed that it can result in a gut upset.  Further complications of excessive xylitol intake is that it has been found to interrupt fat absorption resulting in increased fat in the faeces.  Additionally xylitol can have an osmotic effect on the gut which can cause further gut upset and diarrhoea.  The impact upon fat absorption and increased water contents in the gut will alter the gut microbiota due to the change of physiological parameters in the gut environment.” https://www.quora.com/How-does-xylitol-affect-the-microbiome?share=1

 We see that fermentation is not a bad thing being as it is one natural form of digestion and furthermore, xylitol does some great things: lowers blood sugar, increases energy, reduction of fat absorption, and like many things in excess, can create a cleansing diarrhea.

8) Therefore, to the body xylitol is a chemical not a beneficial nutrient.

This is an unsophisticated construct – any 4th grader knows that nutrients are chemicals and chemicals, like H2O, are nutrients. I think she is making a religious point that with an associated biase but she is inaccurate to claim that xylitol is not “naturally occurring”: The human body produces xylitol on a daily basis (about five to ten grams) from the carbohydrate metabolism of the food you eat. Your body also produces the enzymes xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase to metabolize it properly. http://fixyourgut.com/xylitol/

So in my opinion, while I also agree (being a beekeeper) that eating organic, natural sweets like raw honey (in moderation) is optimal, I can say from a careful scientific review, that the eight sentences above are not scientifically or nutritionally valid. Furthermore, the pentose sugars have many benefits.

So, let’s consider further: how beneficial are the 5 carbon sugars (xylitol and ribose)?

 

FURTHER CONSIDERATION

What is a 5-carbon sugar (aka a “pentose”).

A pentose (penta = 5) is a naturally occurring sugar without which human life could not exist. The common pentoses required by the human being are ribose, deoxyribose.

DNA for example, is the short name for deoxyribonucleaic acid and the sugar involved in this is deoxiribose, another pentose. Deoxyribose is an essential structural component of living cells and source of energy for humans. Whereas DNA contains the pentose sugar deoxyribose, RNA contains the pentose sugar ribose. Whereas cellulose is a β-1,4-linked homopolymer of glucose, hemicellulose is a heteropolymer of hexoses (glucose) and pentoses (mainly xylose and arabinose). A hemicellulose is any of several matrix polysaccharides, such as arabinoxylans, present along with cellulose in almost all plant cell walls. Therefore anytime one eats plants, one is eating and being nourished by 5 carbon sugars

 

BENEFITS of XYLITOL

Cariologic aspects of xylitol and its use in chewing gum: a review.

Birkhed D1.   Acta Odontol Scand. 1994 Apr;52(2):116-27.

 

Abstract

Several studies indicate that xylitol is not metabolized to acids either in pure cultures of oral microorganisms in vitro or in dental plaque in vivo. Chronic consumption of xylitol-sweetened chewing gum resulted in reduction of dental plaque, suppression of mutans streptococci, and reduced adhesiveness of plaque. So far, four field studies with regimens including chewing gum and other xylitol-containing products and four clinical trials have been carried out. All of the latter studies showed that a daily intake of two to three pieces of xylitol gum resulted in a defined reduction of caries. There are indications that regular and prolonged use of xylitol chewing gum may have a caries-preventive effect.

BENEFITS: decreasing bad bacteria in mouth and reducing dental cavities

 

 

AND

Effect of sorbitol- and xylitol-containing chewing gum on salivary microflora, saliva, and oral sugar clearance.

Wennerholm K1, Scand J Dent Res. 1989 Jun;97(3):257-62.

 

Abstract   The effect of frequent use of a sorbitol-containing nicotine chewing gum on saliva secretion rate and buffer capacity and some oral bacteria was studied in 27 patients at a smoking cessation clinic. The effect was compared with that obtained after frequent use of a chewing gum containing xylitol in a second study in 14 subjects. The results showed that sorbitol-containing nicotine chewing gum had no significant effect on salivary numbers of oral streptococci and lactobacilli during a 3-month period of active chewing five times a day. Chewing on xylitol-containing gum caused a significant decrease in salivary S. mutans after 2 months but not after 3 months. No change in secretion rate or buffer capacity was observed in the two studies. Oral sugar clearance time was reduced after 3 months with a statistically significant difference to baseline values in subjects consuming the sorbitol-containing nicotine chewing gum.

 

BENEFITS: decreasing bad bacteria in mouth and reducing dental cavities

 

 

AND

Effects of xylitol on carbohydrate digesting enzymes activity, intestinal glucose absorption and muscle glucose uptake: a multi-mode study.

Chukwuma CI, Islam MS.     Food Funct. 2015 Mar;6(3):955-62.

 

Abstract   The present study investigated the possible mechanism(s) behind the effects of xylitol on carbohydrate digesting enzymes activity, muscle glucose uptake and intestinal glucose absorption using in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo experimental models. The effects of increasing concentrations of xylitol (2.5%-40% or 164.31 mM-2628.99 mM) on alpha amylase and alpha glucosidase activity in vitro and intestinal glucose absorption and muscle glucose uptake were investigated under ex vivo conditions. Additionally, the effects of an oral bolus dose of xylitol (1 g per kg BW) on gastric emptying and intestinal glucose absorption and digesta transit in the different segments of the intestinal tract were investigated in normal and type 2 diabetic rats at 1 hour after dose administration, when phenol red was used as a recovery marker. Xylitol exhibited concentration-dependent inhibition of alpha amylase (ICâ‚…â‚€ = 1364.04 mM) and alpha glucosidase (ICâ‚…â‚€ = 1127.52 mM) activity in vitro and small intestinal glucose absorption under ex vivo condition. Xylitol also increased dose dependent muscle glucose uptake with and without insulin, although the uptake was not significantly affected by the addition of insulin. Oral single bolus dose of xylitol significantly delayed gastric emptying, inhibited intestinal glucose absorption but increased the intestinal digesta transit rate in both normal and diabetic rats compared to their respective controls. The data of this study suggest that xylitol reduces intestinal glucose absorption via inhibiting major carbohydrate digesting enzymes, slowing gastric emptying and fastening the intestinal transit rate, but increases muscle glucose uptake in normal and type 2 diabetic rats.

 

BENEFITS: reduced glucose absorption (lower diabetes risk) increased muscle glucose uptake (increased strength and stamina)

 

AND

Effects of xylitol on blood glucose, glucose tolerance, serum insulin and lipid profile in a type 2 diabetes model of rats.

Islam MS1,   Ann Nutr Metab. 2012;61(1):57-64 Epub 2012 Jul 20.

 

Abstract

 

The present study was conducted to examine the antidiabetic effects of xylitol in a type 2 diabetes rat model.

RESULTS:

After 5 weeks of intervention, food and fluid intake, body weight, blood glucose, serum fructosamine and most of the serum lipids were significantly decreased, and serum insulin concentration and glucose tolerance ability was significantly increased in the XYL group compared to the DBC group. Liver weight, liver glycogen and serum triglycerides were not influenced by feeding with xylitol.

 

CONCLUSION:

The data of this study suggest that xylitol can be used not only as a sugar substitute but also as a supplement to anti-diabetic food and other food products.

 

BENEFITS: appetite suppression, weight loss (less obesity), better insulin sensitivity (less diabetes) and lower blood glucose (anti-diabetes)

 

 

BENEFITS of D-RIBOSE

 

D-ribose, a metabolic substrate for congestive heart failure.

Wagner S. et al Prog Cardiovasc Nurs. 2009 Jun;24(2):59-60.

 

Abstract

The incidence of congestive heart failure continues to escalate worldwide, taxing health care systems. Current therapies focus on clinical management. Current accepted regimens have provided some success; however, most patients show progression of their disease. Because of this failure, research continues to explore therapies directed at stabilization of their disease and hopefully to improve the downward spiral. Publications have asserted that the failing heart is energy starved. D-ribose, a naturally occurring pentose carbohydrate and a key component in the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecule, has demonstrated an ability to replenish ATP levels and improve diastolic dysfunction following myocardial ischemia, which has been shown to improve the clinical state of patients afflicted with congestive heart failure. D-ribose may provide the necessary metabolic substrate to benefit this energy-deficient state found in heart failure.

BENEFITS: D ribose is lifesaving food for the starving heart when in congestive failure.

 

AND

The patented uses of D-ribose in cardiovascular diseases.

Shecterle LM et al   Recent Pat Cardiovasc Drug Discov. 2010 Jun;5(2):138-42.

 

 

Abstract

Cardiovascular diseases account for more deaths worldwide than any other illness. Myocardial ischemia, a common finding in cardiovascular diseases, lowers cellular energy levels, which affects a cell’s integrity and function. Pre-clinical animal studies have reported lower cellular energy levels with an associated decreased function following myocardial ischemia. Recently, scientists have reported that the failing heart is energy starved and yet no pharmaceuticals have been able to address this issue with satisfactory results. Over decades, researchers have explored the use of various metabolites to replenish deficient cellular energy levels following induced ischemia with mixed results. However, D-ribose, a natural occurring carbohydrate, has demonstrated significant enhancing abilities in replenishing deficient cellular energy levels following myocardial ischemia, as well as improving depressed function in numerous animal investigations. Subsequent clinical trials have further substantiated these benefits of D-ribose in patients afflicted with ischemic cardiovascular disease and those carrying the diagnosis of congestive heart failure. The future of effective therapies for ischemic heart disease and congestive heart failure must strongly consider novel pharmaceuticals directed at replenishing cellular energy levels. Intellectual property and the represented patents in this paper emphasize the use of D-ribose for its cellular energy enhancing potential, reflected in both objective and subjective clinical improvements; therefore, substantiating its value in patients with ischemic cardiovascular diseases.

 

BENEFITS: D- Ribose nourishes peoples’ hearts after heart attacks by replenishing cellular energy levels.

 

 

SOUL is sweetened with Ribose and Xylitol as well as organic cane juice.

CORE is sweetened with organic cane juice

FORM is sweetened with Stevia leaf extract

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Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Even among nutritionally astute colleagues, there is a common misunderstanding about sugars in general and hexose (6 carbon) and pentose (5 carbon) sugars in particular. Here below is a note from a lady whose nutritional advice has helped thousands of people. She does a great service by specializing in helping people shed…
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