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Butyrate: implications for intestinal function

Leonel, Alda J.; Alvarez-Leite, Jacqueline I.

Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: September 2012 - Volume 15 - Issue 5 - p 474–479
doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32835665fa
NUTRITION AND THE GASTROINTESTINAL TRACT: Edited by Maria Isabel Toulson Davisson Correia and Miquel A. Gassull

Purpose of review Butyrate is physiologically produced by the microbial fermentation of dietary fibers and plays a plurifunctional role in intestinal cells. This review examines the recent findings regarding the role and mechanisms by which butyrate regulates intestinal metabolism and discusses how these findings could improve the treatment of several gastrointestinal disorders.

Recent findings Butyrate is more than a primary nutrient that provides energy to colonocytes and acts as a cellular mediator in those cells through several mechanisms. One remarkable property of butyrate is its ability to inhibit histone deacetylases, which is associated with the direct effects of butyrate and results in gene regulation, immune modulation, cancer suppression, cell differentiation, intestinal barrier regulation, oxidative stress reduction, diarrhea control, visceral sensitivity and intestinal motility modulation. All of these actions make butyrate an important factor for the maintenance of gut health.

Summary From studies published over 30 years, there is no doubt of the important role that butyrate plays in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. However, despite these effects, clinical studies are still required to validate the routine use of butyrate in clinical practice and, specifically, in the treatment of intestinal diseases.

Departamento de Bioquímica e Imunologia, Instituto de Ciências Biológicas, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Correspondence to Jacqueline I. Alvarez-Leite, MD, PhD, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Caixa Postal 486, Belo Horizonte, CEP 30161-970, Minas Gerais, Brazil. E-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.