Corn Xylitol Vs. Birch Xylitol
Corn Cob Xylitol versus Birch Wood Xylitol
At the request of a client, we have researched the xylitol industry to find out why there is such a disparity in the retail cost of xylitol. Our client has informed us there are about a dozen or so xylitol brands, with several hundred retailers. (Through our investigation, it was found that many of the retailers were selling similar brands) We have compiled a list of the major brands we were able to find (either through multiple resellers or prominent advertising when doing online searches).
The intention of this website is not to promote one brand over another, or promote one source of xylitol over another. It is intended as an independent source of information which does not receive any monetary contribution or funding from any company. We have no financial association with any of the companies presented in this website. We have attempted to keep everything fair and impartial to any one company.
There are people, companies and even books which make the claim xylitol from birch trees (actually it is derived from the bark) is superior to xylitol derived from corn (the source is actually from the corn cob, not the kernel). They claim it has greater health benefits, or that it is more potent. From the research we have done, there appears to be only two major differences between the two sources: environmental impact and price.
Extraction of the xylan hemicellulose is an expensive and technical process. It appears the corn cob source of xylitol is less expensive to produce than birch bark source. This would make the retail price of corn cob source xylitol less than birch bark source xylitol.
We noticed dramatic differences between the process used to extract xylan hemicellulose from the two sources. The corn cob source appears to be more environmentally friendly than birch bark source. Corn cobs, which we assume everyone agrees is a renewable resource each year, has the least environmental impact. The fields the corn is grown in generally do not use pesticides, and only use non-GMO corn. This would qualify the corn as organic. As the cob is usually thrown away, this also is helping to reduce perceived waste.
The birch bark source xylitol involves harvesting the bark from birch trees. This in effect is killing the tree, which forces the tree to be cut down. The birch tree is not a good renewable resource (even though it can be regrown) as it takes about 15 years before a tree can be harvested. As long as the trees are not being sprayed with any pesticides, the bark could be considered organic. It is unknown what is done with the actual tree trunk, but is assumed it is being used for other industrial purposes.
The actual extraction process is also different. The corn cob source uses a natural ion-exchange interaction of hydrogen, hydrochloric acid, and steam. The waste water from this process is used for mushroom farming adjacent to the factory itself, and the pulp is used for fuel. The birch bark source xylitol uses the same process, but uses sulfuric acid in place of hydrochloric acid. This creates a waste product which is not suitable to be reused in any other manner.
All xylitol factories require in-house laboratory testing of their final product to certify FDA compliance. All production is contained within an environment which requires the operator to pass thru three separate decontamination zones to enter the manufacturing area.
The conclusion from our research is corn cob based xylitol appears to be a better product in all arenas. From the price of the product to the general impact on the environment from start to finish, it is better than birch source xylitol.
The only other difference we found in our research was in the grade of xylitol. It appears there are two grades of xylitol available on the market: Food and Pharmaceutical Grades. Some concerns are raised over the food grade xylitol as it is not as refined as pharmaceutical and may contain contaminates. Our recommendation would be to purchase a pharmaceutical grade xylitol.
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