Xylitol helps prevent ear infections in kids

Washington: A new study has found that a natural sweetener commonly found in mints and chewing gum may help prevent ear infections in healthy children under the age of 12.

In the study at the University of Toronto, healthy children under 12 given eight to ten grams of xylitol daily in the form of chewing gum, mints or lozenges had 25 percent fewer ear infections than children given gum, mints or lozenges containing a different sweetener.

Children too young to chew gum had 30 percent fewer ear infections when receiving xylitol syrup than children in the control group.

Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, is used in chewing gum to prevent cavities and has been shown to have antibacterial properties in lab tests.

The study’s lead author, Amir Azarpazhooh, D.D.S., said xylitol appears to work in healthy children by inhibiting bacteria.

It concluded that xylitol is a potential alternative for preventing ear infections in children who have problems with antibiotics.

However, review co-author Hardy Limeback, M.D., head of preventive dentistry at the University of Toronto, suggested that more research is needed before firm guidelines regarding the use of xylitol can be developed.

The finding appeared in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.