Butyric acid from the Greek βουτυρος (butter) is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) with four carbon atoms. It is found in vegetable oils and animal fats. Butyric acid has an unpleasant smell and a bitter and pungent taste.
Butyrate is the traditional name for the conjugated base of butyric acid. The name is used in the name of esters such as butyrate monoglyceride and butyric acid salts (sodium butyrate).
Butyrate is the main source of energy for epithelial cells (colonocytes).
Where can I find butyrate? What foods contain butyrate?
Butyrate is found in butter and ghee as tributyrin. Butter can contain 3-5% tributyrin.
Butyrate is obtained during the fermentation of dietary fibre by the microbiota.
Butyrate: a key metabolite of the microbiota
The bacteria that colonize the digestive tract, especially the colon, consume the prebiotics we consume to be able to reproduce. Prebiotics are food substances generally composed of bound sugars (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides). Prebiotics are essential to the intestinal microbiota.
Indeed, these fibres are transformed by the microbiota into short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Among them, butyrate plays a crucial role in intestinal physiology, as it is one of the preferred sources of carbon in colon epithelial cells. Without butyrate, these cells would be in energy “deficiency.
Biological roles of butyrate
First, SCFAs have effects on the gastrointestinal tract and ensure proper intestinal function. Their primary function is to serve as an energy source for the cells in the colon. Butyrate is the main source of energy for colonocytes, or the cells that form the colon wall. It allows them to multiply and function normally. Without these compounds, these cells undergo autophagy and eventually enter apoptosis, and die.
Butyrate acts on intestinal motility (constipation and diarrhoea), and stimulates the absorption of water and sodium. Also, it improves dysbiosis, i.e, the gut microbiota balance and contributes to protecting the mucus layer of the intestine. (Canani 2011)
Benefits of butyrate
Here are some applications and benefits of butyrate (Manrique 2017):
Coeliacs: Trophic action on the intestinal epithelium and restores microbiota balance.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Regulates intestinal motility and restores the balance of the intestinal microbiota.
Constipation: Regulates intestinal motility and restores the balance of the intestinal microbiota
Diarrhoea related to antibiotics: Restores the balance of the intestinal microbiota
During drug treatments such as chemotherapy, anti-inflammatory drugs: Trophic action on the intestinal epithelium and restores microbiota balance.
Clinical studies with tributyrin
Tributyrin is currently attracting increasing interest as a source of butyric acid (butyrate). In clinical pharmacological studies, it has been shown to be a well-tolerated form. (Edelman 2003)
Tributyrin has been used until now in enteral nutrition in combination with other nutrients. Several studies with tributyrin-containing formulations have been conducted in critically ill patients under enteral nutritional assistance (Scheppach 2003; Beale 2008). The dose used in these trials was generally 1 gram of tributyrin per day. The results include a decrease in constipation and an improvement in gastrointestinal tolerance.
Butyrate food supplement
Tributyrin provides 3 molecules of butyrate. It is the short-chain fatty acid found in butter.
It is an interesting form to take as a dietary supplement of butyrate. Unlike butyrate, it does not have an unpleasant smell.
In addition, the microencapsulated tributyrin in Butycaps is more effective than butyrate salts (sodium butyrate) for the digestion, bioavailability and activity of butyrate in the colon.
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