What is the role of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in my body?

Michael T. Murray, ND
Naturopathic Medicine
The fermentation of dietary fiber by the intestinal flora produces three main end products: short-chain fatty acids, various gases, and energy. Of these, theshort chain fatty acids SCFAs, including acetic, proprionic, and butyric acids, have many important physiological functions. Proprionate and acetate are transported directly to the liver and used for energy production. Proprionate may also help lower an elevated cholesterol level because it is a natural inhibitor of the key enzyme for cholesterol synthesis within the liver (HMG Co A reductase inhibitor).

Butyrate provides an important energy source for the cells that line the colon. In fact, butyrate is the preferred source for energy metabolism in the colon. Butyrate production may also be responsible for the anticancer properties of dietary fiber. Butyrate has been shown to possess impressive anticancer activity and is used in enemas for ulcerative colitis. Certain fibers appear to be more effective than others in increasing the level of SCFAs in the colon. Pectins (both apple and citrus), guar gum, and other legume fibers produce more SCFAs than beet fiber, corn fiber, or oat bran.
Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

More About this Book

Encyclopedia of Healing Foods

From the bestselling authors of The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, the most comprehensive and practical guide available to the nutritional benefits and medicinal properties of virtually everything...

Continue Learning about Fats

Eat the Good Fat First
Eat the Good Fat First
If you're trying to watch your weight, you don't have to forgo appetizers altogether. In fact, choosing the right starter before your meal may actuall...
Read More
What are the different types of natural fats?
Boston Women's Health Book CollectiveBoston Women's Health Book Collective
There are three main types of natural fats: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. These n...
More Answers
The Best (and Worst) Fats for Your Body
The Best (and Worst) Fats for Your BodyThe Best (and Worst) Fats for Your BodyThe Best (and Worst) Fats for Your BodyThe Best (and Worst) Fats for Your Body
Protect your heart health—and much more—by choosing the right fatty foods.
Start Slideshow
Am I Burning Calories When I Shiver?
Am I Burning Calories When I Shiver?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.