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The Health Benefits of Butyrate

Of all the beneficial Short-Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs), butyric acid, also referred to as butyrate is the best- characterized and most well understood. Butyrate is produced by bacterial fermentation of dietary fibers in the colon, with resistant starches generally being considered the most likely to form butyrate by fermentation of glucose in the intestines. Once produced in the colon, butyrate is rapidly absorbed and serves a myriad of functions including:[1,2,3,4,5]

Energy Source: Butyrate serves as the major source of energy for cell production and repair, in the cells that line the colon. There’s some evidence that butyrate suppresses appetite by affecting the levels of hormones in the gut and may affect body weight.

Anti-Inflammatory: Butyrate aids in reducing the expression of many pro-inflammatory cytokines, as well as inflammation-inducing enzymes.

Anti-Carcinogenic: In colonic tumor cells, butyrate acts as an inhibitor in chromatin organization and up-regulates the expression of many genes involved in apoptosis, cell cycle arrest and proliferation. Diminished levels of fecal butyrate have been proposed as a risk factor for the development and progression of colorectal cancer.

Anti-Oxidant: Butyrate can mitigate the effects of oxidative stress by several mechanisms including up-regulating detoxification enzymes and increasing glutathione levels.

Intestinal Barrier Integrity: Butyrate serves a key role in the maintenance of the intestinal barrier by facilitating the assembly of tight junctions which further enhances barrier integrity.

As a result of the numerous benefits of butyrate, it is considered a biomarker of overall colonic health. Concentrations of butyrate are negligible in the blood since it is rapidly absorbed and metabolized in the colon, so fecal samples are used to assess production. Lowered levels of fecal butyrate (and butyrate-producing bacteria) have been observed in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulosis and colorectal cancer. [2,4,6,7,8,9,10,11,12]

If you are suffering from digestive or weight management issues, talk to your trusted healthcare professional about measurement of your butyrate levels. You can also increase butyrate levels by incorporating more fiber-rich foods into your diet.



1. Tan J, et al. The Role of Short Chain Fatty Acids in Health and Disease. Advances in Immunology. 2014. 121:91-119.

2. Pryde S, et al. The microbiology of butyrate formation in the human colon. FEMS Microbiology Letters. 2002. 217:133-139.

3. Rios-Covian D, et al. Intestinal Short Chain Fatty Acids and their Link with Diet and Human Health. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016. 7(185):1-9.

4. Leonel A, et al. Butyrate; Implications for Intestinal Function. Current Opinion Clinical Nutrition. 2012. 15(5):474-479.

5. Hamer H, et al. Review Article: The Role of Butyrate on Colonic Function. Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2008. 27:104-119.

6. Wong J, et al. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Mar;40(3):235-43.

7. Farup P, et al. Fecal short-chain fatty acids – a diagnostic biomarker for irritable bowel syndrome? BMC Gastroenterology. 2016. 16(51)1-7.

8. O’Keefe S, et al. Diet, microorganisms and their metabolites and colon cancer. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2016. 13: 691-705.

9. Sivaprakasam S, et al. Benefits of short-chain fatty acids and their receptors in inflammation and carcinogenesis. Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 2016. 164:144-151.

10. Shi Y, et al. Function and clinical implications of short chain fatty acids in patients with mixed refractory constipation. Colorectal Disease. 2016. 18:803:810.

11. Chen H, et al. Decreased dietary fiber intake and structural alteration of gut microbiota in patients with advanced colorectal adenoma. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013. 97(5):1044-1052.

12. Machiels K, et al. A decrease of the butyrate-producing species Roseburia hominis and Faecalibacterium prausnitzii defines dysbiosis in patients with ulcerative colitis. Gut. 2014. 63:1275-1283.