What is butyrate/butyric acid?
Butyric acid is a short chain fatty acid that is structurally composed of 4 carbon atoms. This molecule can be found in its acid form as butyric acid, or in its ionically charged form known as butyrate. Butyrate can be found naturally in foods such as ghee, butter, raw and unprocessed milk. However, it can also be produced by our gut bacteria through fermentation of dietary fibre. Whether from food sources or as a by-product of bacterial fermentation, butyrate is moved from the gut lumen into the colon epithelial cells through transporter-mediated uptake and direct diffusion through the cell’s lipid bilayer. In the cells, butyrate plays an important role in energy metabolism and gene regulation, which in turn affects the health of our gut, our body, our mind. In fact, while every other tissue in our body uses glucose as its primary energy source, the colon epithelial cells use butyrate as its preferred energy source. As much of butyrate is sequestered and utilized by these cells, butyrate is found in lower quantities in our blood strain compared to other short chain fatty acids such as acetate and proprionate. In addition to being an energy source, butyrate has been found to have anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory properties, and thus immense therapeutic potential for gastrointestinal inflammatory diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s disease,
In mouse and in-vitro studies, butyrate has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Butyrate acts in our colon epithelial cells to exert anti-tumor properties, such as by promoting cell apoptosis (death), reducing tumor cell invasiveness and inducing cell differentiation. Studies have found that butyrate protects against cancer by halting the processes necessary for cancer cell growth and proliferation, such as angiogenesis and metastasis. Furthermore, butyrate promotes the transcription of p53, a critical tumor suppressor gene known as the “guardian of the genome” which halts human tumor development.
Butyrate exerts various functions in the gut to reduce intestinal inflammation. Studies have found that it promotes the formation of regulatory T cells (Tregs) which suppress inflammatory responses. Furthermore, in our innate immune cells (“first-line” response cells) butyrate inhibits the transcription of inflammatory cytokines such as prostaglandins and COX2, and promotes the activation of glutathione which protects against oxidative stress.
The Therapeutic Potential of Butyrate
Butyrate has shown therapeutic potential for strengthening epithelial barrier integrity, as well as protecting our colon from chronic inflammation, cancer cell proliferation. Thus, it is currently being researched for prevention and treatment in irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer etc,.
Similarly, butyrate may be protective against colon cancer. However, more human studies need to be done to better understand the therapeutic potential of administering butyrate in preventing colon cancer. A holistic approach would be to consume a diet rich in fibre-containing foods such as whole fruits and vegetables, which have been found to be protective against colon cancer. As studies have found that a diet poor in fibre-rich foods leads to lower production of butyrate, it is likely that butyrate is an important molecule in maintaining our gastrointestinal health.
Although more clinical studies need to be done to determine whether dietary or supplemental intake of butyrate is beneficial for our health, extensive studies have found that consuming foods which promote microbial butyrate production is indeed beneficial for our overall health. Thus, we should consume foods that naturally promote a healthy gut microbiota. Our diet plays a major role in influencing the composition of our gut microbiota, and both factors have been shown to affect the amount of butyrate produced in the gut. Studies have found that the types of residues (unprocessed, undigested material) reaching our gut is the most important determinant for short chain fatty acid. Diets that are rich sources of non-starch polysaccharides, resistant starch, non-digestible oligosaccharide, sugar alcohols and proteins can promote short chain fatty acid production. This is evidenced by studies which have found that diet rich in fruits in vegetables leads to higher butyrate production, while a Western-style diet low in dietary fibre led to comparatively lower levels of butyrate production. In fact, diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been found to be protective against colon cancer. KOSO contains prebiotics from over 100 types of fermented fruits and vegetables, as well as a rich source of probiotics which promote the production of butyrate to nourish and protect our cells.
Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that can be consumed through dairy products. However, most of the butyrate we require for maintaining a healthy gut comes from fermentation of fibre by our colonic microbiota. Butyrate is the preferred energy source of our gut cells and has been found to confer anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, as well as to strengthen the structural integrity of the intestinal barrier. The best and holistic approach to promote our body’s level of butyrate is to consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables. Furthermore, consuming prebiotic and probiotics drinks such as KOSO can help optimize gut health.