You may have never heard of butyrate but it’s actually an important nutrient that’s working for your body, whether or not you know it works. Butyrate benefits are countless, so it’s worth getting to know it.
Fatty acids are molecule chains of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen that together comprise dietary fats. There are long-, medium-, and short-chain fatty acids that behave differently in the body. Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA).
What is Butyrate?
The body uses fat for energy. Some fats necessary for human health are created by the body, while others are found in the food we eat (“essential” fats). Butyrate is created by bacteria in the colon as a by-product of the breakdown of carbohydrates and fermentation of fiber from food. (1) It is important for digestion and critical for colon health. But butyrate benefits are much more extensive and influential than that.
The following types of dietary fiber produce short-chain fatty acids:
- Inulin from artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, and asparagus.
- Fructo-oligosaccharides found in fruits and vegetables, including bananas, onions, garlic, and asparagus.
- Resistant starch in green bananas and brown rice.
- Pectin: apples, apricots, carrots, and oranges.
- Arabinoxylan, a by-product of wheat flour and other cereal grains.
- Arabinogalactan from carrots, corn, wheat, tomatoes, pears, and radishes.
When we think of the word “bacteria”, it often comes in a negative context, as some bacteria are responsible for illness. However, our bodies are home to gazillions of bacteria, most of which are necessary for our survival. Butyrate is an example of why this is so.
Top 23 Butyrate Benefits
You’ll be surprised to hear this!
When it comes to substance addictions, butyrate is a double-edged sword. Evidence in rat models suggests that enzyme-inhibiting actions by butyrate in the cortical regions of the brain “strongly decreased excessive alcohol intake of dependent rats” and demonstrated a preventative effect on relapse of alcoholism. (3) Another rat study of butyrate’s effect on relapse after cocaine addiction found:
“… relapse results from lasting neuroadaptations that are induced in response to repeated drug administration. The adaptations require gene expression, some of which being under the control of stable epigenetic regulations. [Topics covered below explain butyrate’s role in this context.] We have previously demonstrated that pretreatment with histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors [of which butyrate is one] reduces the cocaine reinforcing properties as well as the motivation of rats for cocaine. We show here that the same HDAC inhibitors, trichostatin A and phenylbutyrate, significantly reduced the cocaine-seeking behavior.” (4)
By the same chemical mechanism, butyrate may help forge the behavioral and physical changes that coincide with addiction, though not contributing to addiction itself. (5)
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in our bodies. Part of their job is to attack harmful bacteria. Butyrate has been shown effective in fighting several harmful bacterium families, including:
- Shigella – an infectious disease that causes fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea (7)
- Helicobacter pylori – causes chronic inflammation of the stomach and intestinal linings, gastritis, and ulcers (8)
- Salmonella – food and water contaminated with this common bacterium cause fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea (9)
Antimicrobial peptides (chains of amino acids) are synthesized by the immune system to generally fight off disease. They work by breaking down bacterial, viral, and fungal cells. Butyrate increases the production of these peptides, promoting proper immune system function and protecting against infection. (10) Furthermore, (phenyl)butyrate strengthens the tissues that form the inner and outer layers of cells, creating barriers to pathogens. (11)