Chewing gum containing xylitol may actually prevent ear infections in kids, researchers say.
In a meta-analysis of three Finnish studies, children who chewed gum — or took other products laden with xylitol, including lozenges or syrup — had about a 25% lower risk of developing acute otitis media compared with control interventions, Amir Azarpazhooh, DMD, of the University of Toronto, and colleagues reported in Cochrane Reviews.
“Based on the studies we reviewed, xylitol seems to be a promising alternative to conventional therapies to prevent acute otitis media among healthy children,” they wrote.
Acute otitis media is the most common infection for which kids are treated with antibiotics, which has spurred concerns over antibiotic resistance. So researchers have searched for alternative means of prevention or treatment, not all of which have been successful.
Xylitol, or birch sugar, has been one such alternative. It’s a five-carbon polyol sugar alcohol found in a number of fruits, which has been shown to inhibit the growth and acid production of certain bacteria, particularly S. mutans.
It is for this feature that some dentists recommend it for preventing cavities, the researchers said.
Since a key step in the pathogenesis of otitis media is the colonization of the upper airway with bacteria that move from the nasopharynx to the middle ear via the eustachian tubes, the researchers hypothesized that it may be effective for preventing middle ear infections.
A win – win here. Prevent tooth decay and ear infections.
Hey, a lot better than taking massive amounts of antibiotics.