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New insight into butyrate metabolism

  • Knud Erik Bach Knudsen (a1), Anja Serena (a1), Nuria Canibe (a1) and Katri S. Juntunen (a1) (a2)


Butyrate is a C4 acid produced by microbial fermentation of carbohydrates and protein in the large intestine of all animal species. The factor of prime importance for the production rate of butyrate in the lower gut is type and levels of non-digestible carbohydrates entering the large intestine. It was previously believed that 85–90% of the butyrate produced in the gut was cleared when passing the gut epithelium, but recent studies with catheterised pigs have shown that the concentration of butyrate in the portal vein is strongly influenced by the production rate in the large intestine. Increased gut production of butyrate further raises the circulating level of butyrate. For good reason it is not possible with current technologies to perform direct measurements of the variation in the butyrate concentration in the portal vein of human subjects, but short-chain fatty acid levels in portal blood from sudden-death victims, subjects undergoing emergency surgery or planned surgery have indicated a higher gut production and absolute and relative concentration of butyrate in non-fasted as compared with fasted human subjects. However, despite an expected higher gut production of butyrate when feeding a high-fibre rye-bread-based diet as compared with a low-fibre wheat-bread-based diet, there was no difference in absolute or relative levels of butyrate in the peripheral blood of human subjects.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Professor Knud Erik Bach Knudsen, fax +45 89 99 13 78,


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