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Butyric acid is a fatty acid that’s created when the good bacteria in your gut break down dietary fiber.

It’s also found in animal fats and vegetable oils. However, the amount of butyric acid found in foods like butter and ghee is small compared to the amount that’s made in your gut.

To date, only limited research has been done, especially on humans, to fully understand the benefits of butyric acid.

Early evidence looks promising, though. Researchers are continuing to look at the potential that butyric acid has for improving gut health.

Keep reading to learn more about the possible benefits of butyric acid and what researchers have unearthed about it so far.

Butyric acid is what’s known as a short-chain fatty acid (SCFA). It’s one of the three most common SCFAs in your gut, along with acetic acid and propionic acid.

These three fatty acids make up between 90 and 95 percent of the SCFAs in your gut.

SCFAs are saturated fatty acids that are created when friendly bacteria break down dietary fiber.

The primary health benefits of butyric acid and other SCFAs are their ability to provide your colon cells with energy. Butyric acid provides your colon cells with about 70 percent of their total energy needs.

Butyric acid goes by several other names, including butyrate and butanoic acid.

You’ve likely heard that eating fiber is good for your digestion. Part of the reason why eating more fiber may improve your gut health is because it leads to your colon producing more butyric acid.

Although clinical evidence is limited, early research suggests butyric acid could have several benefits, as outlined below.

Irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease

Some research suggests taking butyric acid supplements could potentially be used as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease.

In one double-blind, randomized placebo study, 66 adults with IBS received a daily dose of either 300 milligrams (mg) of sodium butyrate or a placebo. After 4 weeks, participants in the butyric acid group reported significantly less abdominal pain.

In another study, researchers gave 13 patients with Crohn’s disease 4 grams of butyric acid a day for 8 weeks. At the end of the 8-week treatment, 9 of the 13 participants had improved symptoms.

Colon cancer

Most of the research looking at butyric acid’s ability to prevent or treat colon cancer has been done on animals or isolated cells.

In one study, researchers found that sodium butyrate blocked the growth of colorectal cancer cells. The same study also found it increased the rate of cell death.

Researchers suggest a higher intake of dietary fiber, which could increase the amount of butyric acid the gut produces, may help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

However, more human studies are needed to explore this.

Insulin sensitivity

People with type 2 diabetes often have low amounts of butyric acid–producing bacteria in their gut.

Animal studies have shown that increasing dietary fiber intake may improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of obesity.

However, at this point in time, there’s limited evidence to suggest increasing butyric acid in humans has the same effect on insulin sensitivity.

Most of the butyric acid in your body comes from the bacteria in your gut. The amount of butyric acid in food is small compared to the amount your gut bacteria produce.

Dietary butyric acid is found in the following foods:

  • ghee
  • cow’s milk
  • butter
  • sheep’s milk
  • goat’s milk
  • breast milk
  • parmesan cheese
  • red meat
  • vegetable oils
  • sauerkraut

Butter is one of the best dietary sources of butyric acid. About 11 percent of the saturated fat in butter comes from SCFAs. Butyric acid makes up about half of these SCFAs.

You can also take butyric acid as a supplement. Sodium butyrate is one of the most common forms of the supplement. You can buy this supplement at most health stores or online.

However, keep in mind that at this time, the benefits of butyric acid supplements aren’t well understood. Discuss the pros and cons with your doctor.

Increasing your dietary fiber intake is another way to boost the amount of butyric acid in your gut. The bacteria in your gut primarily feed on resistant starches your body can’t break down.

You can find these resistant starches in fruit, whole grains, legumes, and vegetables, like:

  • artichokes
  • garlic
  • onions
  • asparagus
  • potatoes
  • bananas
  • apples
  • apricots
  • carrots
  • oat bran

You can also find resistant starches in carbs that are cooked then cooled, like:

  • oats
  • beans
  • rice
  • potatoes

At this time, there aren’t any guidelines around how much butyric acid you need.

Increasing your fiber intake may be the best strategy for boosting the amount of butyric acid in your gut. Even the richest food sources contain relatively little of this fatty acid compared to the amount your gut bacteria create.

As of now, there’s limited clinical evidence about the safety of butyric acid.

In the study mentioned earlier that found that butyric acid supplementation may improve IBS symptoms, the researchers reported no side effects at a dose of 300 mg per day.

However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you may want to avoid butyric acid supplementation.

One animal study found that giving pregnant and breastfeeding rats sodium butyrate led to insulin resistance and increased fat storage in their offspring.

At this point in time, only limited research has been done on humans to fully understand the benefits of butyric acid. However, the research that has been published so far suggests butyric acid may be beneficial for your digestive health.

Based on what we currently know, the best way to increase this fatty acid in your system is to boost your intake of dietary fibers. Fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are all excellent sources of fiber.

Other foods like ghee, butter, and milk also contain some butyric acid. However, the levels are low compared to what’s produced when the friendly bacteria in your gut break down and ferment dietary fiber.