In the body, short-chain fatty acids are formed by the fermentation of fiber in the large intestine by friendly intestinal bacteria. Studies conducted have found short-chain fatty acids play an important role in the prevention of a number of diseases and human health.
1. What is short-chain fatty acids? Properties of short-chain fatty acids
Short-chain fatty acids are defined as structurally fatty acids with a number of carbon atoms less than 6. Short-chain fatty acids have the following characteristics and properties:
- Made from good intestinal bacteria, when they carry out the fermentation of fiber present in the large intestine. Short-chain fatty acids are also the primary source of energy for cells lining the large intestine. Therefore, short-chain fatty acids play an important role for colon health.
- Participates in the metabolism of starch, sugar and fat in the body (short-chain fatty acids are made redundant).
- The majority of short-chain fatty acids in the human body are acetate, propionate and butyrate. In particular, acetate and butyrate combine and form cholesterol and other fatty acids, while propionate is involved in the production of glucose in the liver.
- The number of short-chain fatty acids in the large intestine is influenced by factors such as the number of microorganisms present, diet, digestive time.
2. Where is short-chain fatty acids available?
Eating more vegetables, fruits and legumes, providing more fiber to the body is a way to make more short-chain fatty acids. However, depending on the type and amount of fiber consumed will affect the intestinal bacterial composition, which in turn will produce different types of short chain fatty acids.
Here are the types of fiber and food sources that help boost the production of short-chain fatty acids in the colon:
- Arabinoxylan: There are many in wheat bran and cereal nuts.
- FOS (Fructooligosaccharides): Found in bananas, garlic, onions, asparagus.
- Guar gum: Extracted from a plant of the legume family, named guar beans.
- Inulin: Is common in garlic, onion, asparagus,wheat, barley, artichokes.
- Pectin: There are many in apricots, apples, oranges, carrots.
- Resistant starch: There are many in barley,rice and cereals, beans, potatoes, green bananas.
3. The role of short-chain fatty acids for health and some diseases
3.1 Gastrointestinal disorders
Short-chain fatty acids can help reduce diarrhea and treat ulcerative colitis, which are two common digestive disorders. In particular, butyrate short-chain fatty acids with anti-inflammatory properties are used to help reduce enteritis, similar to acetate.
In addition, studies have also found more severe ulcerative colitis when the amount of short-chain fatty acids is low.
3.2 Colon cancer
For certain cancers, especially colon cancer , short-chainfatty acids have a preventive and therapeutic effect. Specifically, butyrate helps maintain the health of large intestine cells to prevent tumor cells from growing, while stimulating the process of destroying tumor cells.
For colon cancer ,some studies have also shown that eating more fiber can help reduce the risk of the disease, but more specific studies on this relationship are needed.
Some studies show the role of short-chain fatty acids in regulating and controlling blood sugar levels in patients with insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes by promoting enzymes in liver and muscle cells to function. However, more research evidence will be needed proving the role of short-chain fatty acids for diabetes.
3.4 Weight loss
Studies have hypothesized the relationship between intestinal micro-system composition and obesity through the body absorbing nutrients found in the diet and regulate energy metabolism.
Short-chain fatty acids are produced from the fermentation of fiber in the large intestine, if excess will participate in the metabolism of fats, namely increasing the likelihood of burning fat and reducing the ability to store fats, thereby helping to reduce the amount of free fatty acids in the body , against weight gain.
However, more evidence is needed to prove the role of short-chain fatty acids for weight loss in humans.
Some cardiovascular pathology problems can be prevented by enhancing the fiber in the diet to produce more short-chain fatty acids, which help reduce the amount of cholesterol in the body.
In particular, butyrate is an important short-chain fatty acid that interacts with those genes in the body that produce cholesterol, thereby helping to reduce the amount of cholesterol, similar to acetate.
4. Should foods containing short-chain fatty acids be added?
According to nutritionists, using supplements to increase short-chain fatty acids in the body is not necessary because they will be absorbed in the small intestine before reaching the colon. Besides, there is not much scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of short-chain fatty acid supplements.
Instead, a diet rich in fiber is the better option to improve and increase the production of short-chain fatty acids in the body.
Short chain fatty acids are products of fiber fermentation in the large intestine, both as a source of energy for large intestine cells, and play an important role in health and prevention and treatment of a number of disease problems.
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