Tag Archives: what is butyrate in

Butyrate Series, Part 4


We have had a most wonderful Thanksgiving week!  A warm thank you to my family for coming so far to visit and eat a gluten-free, dairy-free whole foods Thanksgiving dinner!  But let’s get this butyrate series rolling again.  Today’s post will start explaining dietary sources of butyrate after a few miscellaneous points.

1.  What does butyrate smell like?

Stravecchio Parmesan Cheese

A.  Chocolate
B.  Sauerkraut
C.  Stinky locker rooms
D.  Parmesan cheese
E.  A and C
F.  C and D
G.  All of the above
H.  None of the above

The smell of butyrate is quite characteristic.  I’ve heard it described as a vomit smell and a parmesan cheese smell.  Go figure.  My nose luckily errs on the side of parmesan cheese.  Today I opened a jar of ghee (ghee is clarified butter with the milk proteins removed and only the fat left behind) and a bottle of my butyric acid supplement capsules and had my sister smell them.  That distinct smell that greets you from a jar of ghee (or from butter if you have a good smeller) is butyric acid.  I wonder if I could sprinkle my supplement on my pizza meatballs… anyhow… butyric acid is what makes the locker room smell, stinky shoe smell, and certain cheesy smell.  So the correct answer is F (both C and D).

2.  How do you pronounce butyrate?

A.  Butt-eye-rate
B.  Byou-ter-ate
C.  Butt-er-rate
D.  Butt-yuh-rat

Butyrate:  byou-ter-ate
Butanoate:  byou-tan-oh-ate
Butyric acid:  byou-teer-ic acid
Butanoic acid:  byou-tuh-no-ic acid

The answer is B.

3.  Why do research articles use butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid interchangeably?

A.  Because they made mistakes in their writing and the editors missed it.
B.  All scientists, especially in nutrition, want to confuse everybody.  Like The Tower of Babel.  (Pssst.  Don’t let them do it.  Just eat real, whole foods.  Healthy food.)
C.  Because the terms apply to the same basic functional structure which the body can convert from one to the other with no difficulty at all.
D.  After lipase works on the short chain fatty acid butyrate, butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid are all made.  Although varying in structure, they do the same things in the body.

Butyrate, butanoate, butyric acid, and butanoic acid are interchangeable terms for our purposes.  In fact, butyrate and butanoate have exactly the same structure.  Butyric acid and butanoic acid have exactly the same structure.  And the only difference between butyrate/butanoate and butyric acid/butanoic acid is a hydrogen atom.  They all have the same structure plus or minus a hydrogen atom, and the body has no problems converting them back and forth.

The correct answer is C.

Back to Boring.  How Can You Get Butyrate?

There is no dietary guideline for butyrate, and you won’t see it mentioned on the nutrition label.   The best sources for butyrate come from eating certain foods that the bacteria living in your colon like to also eat (fiber and resistant starch).  However, this is not the only way.

I see 4 potential sources of butyrate for the body:

  • Eat butyrate containing foods
  • Eat butyrate producing foods
  • Take butyrate supplements
  • Take probiotics which contain bacteria known to make butyrate

Today we will look at “Eat butyrate containing foods.” 

What foods contain butyrate?

A.  Butter and cheddar cheese
B.  Bacon and ham
C.  Potato and sweet potato
D.  Beans and peas

There are not many food types with butyrate in them.  It pretty much comes down to food made from the milk fat of animals who eat grass, for example cows, sheep, and goats. These are called ruminant animals: animals who eat grass, have hooves, chew their cud, and have specialized stomachs.  The bacteria in their guts are very effective at making butyrate. (1, 2, 3)  So the correct answer was A.

Milk fat foods with butyrate:  Listed below are the butyrate contents for milk fat foods that I found on-line.

(Two asides:  1.  Here is a cool graphic “poster” glorifying the attributes of BUTTER:  Bulletproof–Grass-fed Butter in Bulletproof Coffee Review2.  If it is helpful at all as a useless reference, BodyBio makes a butyrate supplement.  BodyBio recommends a dose of 3600 mg daily of its butyrate supplement.  That may help you put the amounts I list below into some sort of perspective.)

  • 100 grams (one stick) of butter has 2700 mg
  • One pat of butter has about 216 mg (a pat of butter is 10 grams, 1/3 of an ounce, or 1/2 tablespoon) (3, 4, 5)
  • 100 grams (a little less than 1/2 cup) of cream has 1500 mg
  • 100  grams of whipping cream has 1200 mg  (I don’t know the difference between cream and whipping cream)
  • 100  grams (about 3.5 ounces) of cheddar cheese has about 1100 mg
  • 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of Camembert has about 780mg
  • 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) of parmesan has about 730 mg
  • 100 grams of full fat ice cream has about 370 mg
  • 100 grams of “regular” milk has about 120 mg
  • 100 grams of whole milk yogurt has about 100 mg (5)

That’s it?

Well, that’s “pert near” about it.  Some fermented foods are claimed to have butyrate, but I couldn’t find Fermented foodsquantification of this, nor could I find any good list of sources from people who claimed this.  I spent hours searching, and I tried about a dozen or more different search terms.  I’ll list what I could find that showed/didn’t show butyrate in fermented foods.  If you have anything to offer in this area, please do!

Fermented Foods:

  • A study on commercial sauerkraut which showed no butyric acid in sauerkraut:  Chemical and Sensory Characterization of Commercial Sauerkraut. (6)
  • I found a rat study looking at the effect of fermented sugar beet fiber on cholesterol.  To make the rats’ food, they fermented sugar beet fiber with rat cecum bacterial contents in a fermentation jar.  The fermented “food” they made for the rats had higher levels of short chain fatty acids (including butyrate).  (Umm.  Is that how you make your sauerkraut?  Maybe we need to use their starter?  Makes you look at a Pickl-it-Jar in a whole new way…)  (7)
  • Kombucha.  I found a site called Happy Herbalist with a  post called “Analysis of the Kombucha Ferment.”  It lists butyrate (butanoic acid) as a potential substance in kombucha.  But I couldn’t determine the source of this information.  If you’re interested in kombucha, here’s a link to a research article about it.  Nothing about butyrate in it, though:  Changes in major componnets of tea fungus metabolites during prolonged fermentation.  In addition, I found something called “Teapedia.”  It also lists butyric acid as a potential component of kombucha:  Kombucha. 

So as far as fermented foods and butyrate go, I think there is probably a tad in some. Not much, if any, in the sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles I eat. If there’s a strong smell like parmesan cheese or stinky locker room, there’s probably a good chance there’s butyrate there. Trust your nose.

Final Thought

Does the presence of butyrate in what you eat even make a difference?  If you surf around regarding oral butyrate (either via food or via supplements), you’ll see concern about how butyrate does not make it to the colon.  It seems to be important to have butyrate actually physically in the colon. (8,9,10)  Many human studies on oral butyrate use an enteric coated formulation so it can make it all the way to the colon (11).  Two things cross my small mind here:

  1. Although most butyrate seems to be absorbed by the small intestine, the absorption of butyrate is “saturable,” meaning at some point the transport of butyrate will become overwhelmed, and butyrate can scoot on by to make it to the colon without being absorbed.  (12,13)
  2. It appears that the butyrate that is absorbed makes it to the blood for beneficial effects, even on the colon, and this seems beneficial to the body too.  From a study looking at short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and butyrate on mice with induced colitis: “It is now clear that the trophic [positive growth] effect of SCFA is due not only to the simple provision of energy to the host but also to the combination of local action and systemic metabolism of SCFA… We have demonstrated that this protection can be obtained by oral doses of SCFA.” (emphasis mine) (14)

Point one makes me think that if enough butyrate is taken through foods, there is a point at which absorption is overcome, and so some butyrate does actually make it to the colon.  Point two makes me think that even if it does get all absorbed, even that which is absorbed makes a difference both to the entire body and to the colon.

If you can’t eat dairy.  Don’t despair.  The next post will look at butyrate producing foods we can eat.

Take good care.


Part 5

Sources:  (Most sources can be found in entirety or in significant portions on-line if you look for links to PDF files or look for little boxes that say “Full text.”)

  1. Milk Fats:  http://www.cyberlipid.org/glycer/glyc0073.htm
  2. Understanding the Ruminant Animal Digestive System from Mississippi State University Extension Service:  http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2503.pdf
  3. Foods High in Butyric Acid:  http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/butyric_acid/foods/high/
  4. The Ambiguity of a Pat of Butter:  http://www.ochef.com/1460.htm
  5. Butyric Acid Content of Food:  http://wholefoodcatalog.info/nutrient/butyric_acid/foods/
  6. Chemical and Sensory Characterization of Commercial Sauerkraut.  Trail, Young, Fleming, and McFeeters.  Journal of Food Quality.  1996.  19:  pp. 15-30.  http://www.ncsu.edu/foodscience/USDAARS/Acrobatpubs/P254-286/P258.pdf
  7. Fermentation Products of Sugar-Beet Fiber by Cecal Bacteria Lower Plasma Cholesterol Concentration in Rats.  Hara, Haga, Kasai, and Kiriyama.  The Journal of Nutrition.  April 1998.  128:4 (688-698).  http://jn.nutrition.org/content/128/4/688.full
  8. Butyrate and the Colonocyte.  Velazquez, Lederer, and Rombeau.  Digestive Diseases and Sciences.  April 1996.  41: 4(727-739).  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02213129
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3070119/  Potential effects of butyrate on intestinal and extraintestinal disease.
  10. Short-chain fatty acid formation at fermentation of indigestible carbohydrates. Henningsson, Bjorck, and Nyman.  Scandinavian Journal of Nutrition.  2001.  45: 165-168.
  11. Oral butyrate for mildly to moderately active Crohn’s disease.    Sabatino et al.  Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Nov 1;22(9):789-94 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16225487
  12. Absorption of short chain fatty acids from the human ileum.  Schmitt, Konrad, et al. Digestive Diseases.  1977. 22:4 (340-347).  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01072192#page-1      STEFF, MEMS
  13. Absorption of short chain fatty acids from the human jejunum. Schmitt, Soergel, and Wood.   Gastroenterology.  February 1976.  70: 2 (211-215).  http://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(76)70032-5/abstract
  14. Protection by Short-Chain Fatty Acids against 1-B-D-Arabinofuranosylcytosine-Induced      Intestinal Lesions in Germfree Mice.       Ramos, Bambirra, Nicoli, Cara, Vieira, and Alvarez-Leite.  Antimicrob Agents Chemother.  April 1999.  43:4(950-953).  http://aac.asm.org/content/43/4/950.full