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J Nutr. 2003 Oct;133(10):3145-8.

Fecal acetate is inversely related to acetate absorption from the human rectum and distal colon.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.


In humans, colonic bacteria ferment unabsorbed carbohydrates, producing the SCFA acetic, propionic and n-butyric acids. To test for interactions among the SCFA that may affect their absorption, healthy subjects (n = 10) were given 300-mL rectal infusions containing acetate (60 mmol/L), propionate (20 mmol/L) and butyrate (20 mmol/L), alone or in combinations of two or three. The solutions were retained for 30 min, and then subjects voided a sample for SCFA measurement. To examine the relationship between absorption and fecal SCFA concentrations, a fecal sample was collected at the end of the study. The mean percentage of butyrate absorption (30.2 +/- 4.6%) exceeded that of acetate (24.1 +/- 3.7%) (P < 0.05). Absorption tended to be less (P = 0.12) when a SCFA was infused alone (26.7 +/- 4.0%) than when all three were infused (32.0 +/- 5.7%). Bicarbonate concentration was higher after butyrate-containing infusions than after saline. The fecal molar acetate percentage was inversely correlated with the percentage of acetate absorption from the infusion of three SCFA (r = -0.834, P < 0.005). We conclude that there was no combination effect on SCFA absorption, and the chain-length effect suggests passive diffusion as a likely mechanism of absorption. Furthermore, fecal acetate may reflect absorption, rather than production of colonic acetate.

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