Daily doses of xylitol, a sweetener derived from birch bark, reduced the incidence of ear infections in children by as much as 40 percent and decreased the need for antimicrobials, according to a Finnish study.

Xylitol, commonly used as a sucrose substitute because it prevents dental caries, also has been found to inhibit growth of Streptococcus pneumoniae. To determine whether using the sweetener could prevent acute otitis media (AOM), researchers recruited 857 children from child care centers to participate in a three-month randomized, controlled trial.

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