butyric acid fiber fermentation

Are all fats, like butyric acid, created equally?

If you want to stay healthy, you should eat a diet high in fiber and low in fat. At least that’s what most doctors and nutrition experts say. And they’re right (to a point). Foods high in fiber are good for your body for a number of reasons, and bad fats (like trans fats and those from refined seed oils) should be kept in moderation. But did you know that, in your digestive system, the fiber you eat can actually become a healthy fat called butyric acid?  Yes, this actually happens and for good reason. Let’s explore how your body takes one good-for-you element and transforms it into another element that’s equally as good.

You’re probably aware that digestion is basically the process of the body breaking food down into usable parts and transporting it to the cells: Once food enters your stomach, stomach acid starts to break it down before it moves into the small intestine. Then, enzymes from your liver and pancreas help break down the food into even smaller particles. The nutrients in these particles ultimately enter your bloodstream to be used by they body’s cells. The leftovers, or unusable portions of the food particles, move on to the large intestine and ultimately become waste.  That’s digestion in a nutshell, but there are other important nuisances of digestion that are still being discovered.

Digestion is also about transformation, taking what’s not usable and making it something healthy. In comes fiber and butyric acid.  Fiber is any food that isn’t digestible, foods particles that can’t be broken down or transferred to the bloodstream for use by the cells. The digestive system has two options, it can eliminate these fibers from the body or ferment them. A vast population of microscopic organisms, commonly referred to as “gut bacteria”, reside in the large intestine. These bacteria perform a variety of important jobs that keep us healthy, and one of them involves taking that indigestible fiber and turning it into fat. Gut bacteria is capable of transforming many plant-based fibers, via a process called bacterial fermentation, into butyric acid. Butyric acid, named after butyrum (the Latin word for butter), is a type of short-chain fatty acid that was actually first discovered in rancid butter.

The thought of having “rancid” fat in your gut may leave you a bit unsettled, but butyric acid actually provides your body with several benefits. Butyric acid helps nourish the cells of your colon, thereby helping to keep your colon tissue healthy. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, and supplies antimicrobial substances that strengthen the mucosal barrier, a lining that keeps potentially harmful substances from passing into your gastrointestinal track. All this helps protect you against the onset of symptoms associated with ailments such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

So yes, your body can turn fiber into fat. The good news is that this fat takes the form of butyric acid, a substance that can help keep you healthy. So keep eating the recommended amount of dietary fiber. Your colon will thank you for it!

References: http://www.ebi.ac.uk/chebi/searchId.do?chebiId=CHEBI:30772http://jmm.sgmjournals.org/content/59/2/141.full

Originally posted 2013-10-07 16:31:20.

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