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Xylitol is a substance that is categorized as a sugar alcohol (or polyalcohol).
Sugar alcohols are like hybrids of a sugar molecule and alcohol molecule. Their structure gives them the ability to stimulate the sweet taste receptors on the tongue.
Xylitol is found in small amounts in many fruits and vegetables and is therefore considered natural. Humans even produce small amounts of it via normal metabolism.
It is a common ingredient in sugar free chewing gums, candies, mints, diabetes friendly foods and oral care products.
Xylitol has a similar sweetness as regular sugar, but contains 40% fewer calories: