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Butyrate and its

multifarious effects on intestinal health

By Pauline Paap, Orffa Additives Dietary fibre plays an important role in the microbial production of butyrate, even in cats with their carnivorous nature

Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid that deserves particular attention as an important energy source for cells in the intestinal tract and its multiple beneficial effects on vital intestinal function. In the digestive tract, butyrate is naturally present in high concentrations in the lumen of the large intestine. Dietary fibres are used in diets for companion animals as a substrate for the microbial production of butyrate. Microbial fermentation of dietary fibre in the colon results in the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), such as acetate, propionate and butyrate. The prebiotic potential of different fibre sources is frequently compared based on microbial production of SCFA’s and in particular butyrate. The positive effect of butyrate can also be achieved by direct addition of the SCFA to the diet. However, unprotected butyrate will be directly absorbed in the first part of the digestive tract before reaching the large intestine. Micro-encapsulation of butyrate results in the targeted release of butyrate over the whole digestive tract and, just as importantly, correct coating reduces the typical unpleasant smell of butyrate.

Natural production of butyrate The intestinal microbiota plays a critical role in the establishment and maintenance of intestinal health. Fermentation of dietary fibres by commensal bacteria results in the production of SCFA’s. Approximately 95-99% of SCFA’s produced in the hindgut is quickly absorbed and delivers energy to the animal (1). Dietary fibre and their fermentation metabolites play an important role in the metabolism


and health of companion animals, even in cats with their carnivorous nature (2). Butyrate is considered the most important SCFA for intestinal

epithelial cells. Especially the cells in the colon take up butyrate where it is used for the production of energy and the maintenance of colonic homeostasis (3). Numerous studies indicate the importance of butyrate for the provision of energy to epithelial cells, sodium and water absorption, influence on epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation, villi development and in improving gut defence systems. Butyrate strength the barrier function, have antimicrobial potency and positively influence immune system (4) (5). The lumen of the colon has the highest density of microbes in the

body and specific bacteria belonging to genera such as Clostridium, Eubacterium and Butyrivibrio ferment dietary fibre into butyrate at very high concentrations (4). The quantity of butyrate produced in the colonic lumen depends on the composition of the microflora and the amount of fermentable substrates available in the diet. Higher levels of butyrate can be achieved by adding fermentable fibres to the diet. However diets with too large amounts of fermentable fibres can have negative effects on faecal characteristics such as loose stools and flatulence. Intestinal infections, chronic inflammatory disorders and use of antibiotics negatively affect the colonic microflora and may result in reduced production of butyrate (5). The addition of microencapsulated butyrate to the diet is a solution to provide additional amounts of butyrate to the colon (6).

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