Butyric acid: what is the future for this old substance?

A recent paper in the journal Swiss Medical Weekly explored the developing uses for the application of butyric acid in the management of human health.[1]

Butyric acid (BA) is a carboxylic acid with the formula CH3-CH2-CH2-COOH. It is frequently used in the veterinary field, especially in ruminant animals. Together with other short-chain fatty acids (propionic acid and acetic acid), BA is the principal source of energy produced by ruminal fermentation of cellulose and starch. In the field of zootechnics, butyric acid is used to improve the growth of bovine animals.[2] In humans, BA is synthesised by the colonic microflora (microbiota) during fermentation of digestible fibre, such as cereal flour, inulin, and psyllium.[3]

In humans, the effects of BA can be subdivided into intestinal and extraintestinal. Intestinal effects include: regulating transepithelial transport, improving the inflammatory and oxidative states of the intestinal mucosa, reinforcing the mucosal barrier, modulating visceral sensitivity and motility, and preventing and inhibiting colon carcinoma. Extraintestinal effects are less well known; they have been studied in vitro and in animal models and sometimes even in humans. Currently investigated effects include: haemoglobinopathies, hypercholesterolaemia, reducing resistance to insulin (in animal studies), and reducing ischemic stroke (in animal studies).

Additional information can be found by reading the short article in full.


[1] Sossai P. Butyric acid: what is the future for this old substance? Swiss Med Wkly. 2012 Jun 6;142:w13596. doi: 10.4414/smw.2012.13596. Review.

[2] Gorka P, Kowalski ZM, Pietrzak P, Kotunia A, Jagusiak W, Holst JJ, et al. Effect of method of delivery of sodium butyrate on rumen development in newborn calves. J Diary Sci. 2011;94:5578–88. View Abstract

[3] Berni Canani R, Di Costanzo M, Leone L, Pedata M, Meli R, Calignano A. Potential beneficial effects of butyrate in intestinal and extraintestinal disease. World J Gastroenterol. 2011;17:1519–28. View Full Paper

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