What are butyric acid and butyrate?

Butyric acid, from the Greek βουτυρος (butter), is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) with four carbon atoms. It is mainly found as triglycerides (fat) in butter. Butyric acid has an unpleasant smell and a bitter, pungent taste.

Butyrate is the traditional name for the conjugated base of butyric acid. This name is used in the naming of esters such as butyrate monoglyceride and salts of butyric acid (sodium butyrate).

Butyrate is produced in the intestine during the digestion of fibre and carbohydrates. It is the main source of energy for the epithelial cells (colonocytes).

What are the forms of butyrate in food supplements?

Butyric acid or butanoic acid:

This form has an unpleasant smell and a pungent taste. It is, therefore, a less suitable form for dietary supplements.

Butyrate salts (sodium or calcium or magnesium butyrate)

They are more stable molecules and have a less unpleasant smell than butyric acid.

Tributyrin

Tributyrin is the butyrate triglyceride found in butter. It is a superior form for digestion and bioavailability.

What are the benefits of butyrate?

Butyrate:

  • contributes to the proper functioning of colon cells and regulates intestinal transit: reduction of constipation or diarrhoea
  • contributes to reducing inflammation in the gut (Andoh 1999)
  • regulates the pH in the colon and thus the microbiota (Lee 2019)

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