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Short Chain Fatty Acids

essential for good gut health

 

During the digestion of fibers in the colon, the microbiota produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). There is a growing body of evidence that SCFAs provide several health benefits. For example, the SCFA butyrate, is the main energy source for the colon and is associated with the prevention of several diseases such as cancer, metabolic disorders and bowel problems.

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Fibers are plant-based carbohydrates that, unlike other carbohydrates, are not digested in the small intestine. In the colon, they are wholly or partly fermented by the microbiota. Fibers have several benefits for gut health. They help improving stool consistency and gut transit time, and are important for restoring a balanced gut microbiome. Besides, commensal bacteria, components of the gut microbiota, ferment fibers into large amounts of SCFAs. [2]

The functions of SCFAs

The SCFAs released by the digestion of fibers are important for health and wellbeing. Each SCFA has its own function and physiological effect. Effects have been described both locally in the colon and systemically [2] The main, and best researched, SCFAs are acetate, propionate and butyrate. Acetate enters the circulation to be metabolized by peripheral tissues, where it can be used as a substrate for lipogenesis (the conversion of excess carbohydrates into fat) and the synthesis of cholesterol. Propionate is largely taken up by the liver where it reduces cholesterol and plays a role in the synthesis of glucose.

 

 


Although fibers are an essential part of a healthy diet, in general, the consumption of dietary fiber is low and hardly ever meets dietary recommendations. In Europe, nutritional guidelines vary, but adults are recommended to consume between 25-40 grams fibers daily. The actual intake however, is between 15 and 27 grams per day. [1]  

Butyrate has mostly been linked to gut health. It has a wide array of biological functions.[3] Butyrate is the main energy source for colonocytes (epithelial cells in the colonic mucosa) and is associated with maintenance of the epithelium. [3]. Besides, there is a growing amount of evidence that butyrate plays a role in preventing colon cancer, obesity-related metabolic diseases, inflammation and bowel disorders. [4]

 

 

How to stimulate SCFA production?

To boost the amount of butyrate-synthesizing bacteria and by this gut health, the intake of sufficient fibers is important. This can be achieved by increasing the amount of dietary fiber in the diet. However, since most people do not reach fiber intake recommendations, a more direct and easy way could be the use of prebiotic supplements.

 

Winclove’s innovation department is actively researching how these new knowledge of butyrate and other SCFAs can help to improve our probiotic formulations.

 

 

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We are, for example, investigating the possibility to replace the current carrier material, usually rice starch or maltodextrin, by prebiotic components. This will increase the health effect of the probiotic formulation since it does not only contain beneficial bacteria but also stimulates the growth of SCFAs producing commensal bacteria. We will keep you updated about our latest developments in this field.

 

 

References

1.       European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/health-knowledge-gateway/promotion-prevention/nutrition/fibre

2.       LeBlanc,J.G., Chain,F., Martín, R., Bermúdez-Humarán, L.G., Courau, S., Langella, P. Beneficial effects on host energy metabolism of short-chain fatty acids and vitamins produced by commensal and probiotic bacteria. Microb Cell Fact. 2017; 16: 79.

3.       Bourassa, M.W., Alim, I et al Butyrate, neuroepigenetics and the gut microbiome: Can a high fiber diet improve brain health? Neuroscience Letters 2016; 625: 56-63.

4.       Macfarlane, G.T., Macfarlane, S. Fermentation in the human large intestine – its physiologic consequences and the potential contribution of prebiotics. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 2011 45(3), S120-S12.

  

 

 

 

 

SCFAs essential for good gut health

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