Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Why Are They Important?
Short-chain fatty acids or SCFA are the main metabolites produced by the probiotics in your gut. They are essential for your gut health, body, and even brain health.
Short-chain fatty acids are made when gut bacteria break down the carbs in fiber. They are the main source of nutrition for the cells that line your colon. That is why they are important for your colon’s health. They are also involved in the metabolism of important nutrients like fats and carbohydrates. Approximately 95% of the short-chain fatty acids in your body are:
Acetate helps to keep your intestinal environment stable. They also feeds other beneficial bacteria. SCFAs produced by bacteria in your gut mostly consist of acetate. These compounds are an integral part of health and well-being. Acetate is created when probiotics like Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus break down the fibers in the GI tract. By using acetate, other bacteria in the gut can make butyrate, a source of energy for the cells that line the gut.
Acetate helps keep the gut environment stable. It keeps the gut acidic enough for beneficial bacteria to survive while preventing harmful bacteria from entering. Acetate also helps control appetite and regulate fat storage by binding to the receptors in the gut lining.
Butyrate is important for the health of the digestive system. They also help prevent disease including mental conditions. Unlike acetate, butyrate production is less than the others, but it’s great for combating inflammation which causes damages to the body and increases the risk of chronic diseases.
One of the main roles of butyrate is to provide at least 90% of energy for the cells that line the gut. These cells need butyrate so they can carry out their important function like preserving the integrity of the gut lining. The gut lining acts as a barrier between the body and the intestinal environment. When the lining works properly, vitamins and minerals can easily get into the bloodstream and to various parts of the body where they are needed. The gut lining also prevents harmful bacteria from getting into the blood.
Propionate is another product of the bacteria breakdown of dietary fibers. Propionate is a SCFA that lowers cholesterol, reduces fat storage, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It's produced by bacterial fermentation in your large intestine. Like acetate, propionate helps control the appetite by stimulating the release of peptide hormones. Like butyrate, propionate also plays a protective role against colon cancer.
Probiotic supplements and short-chain fatty acids
Increasing the production of these health-promoting metabolites is super easy. All you need is to cram in the fiber and take probiotic supplements, especially the ones that contain the Lactobacillus genus. Dietary fibers like whole plant foods are prebiotics that nourish the good bacteria in the gut, and you can increase your SFCA by increasing your dietary fiber intake. Replenishing your gut with probiotics can also significantly enhanced microbial diversity and increase SFCA production.