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Dig Dis Sci. 2013 Oct;58(10):2756-66. doi: 10.1007/s10620-013-2744-4. Epub 2013 Jul 10.

Pathobiology and potential therapeutic value of intestinal short-chain fatty acids in gut inflammation and obesity.

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Nutrition and Food, Greater Los Angeles Veteran Affairs Healthcare System, WLAVA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, 90073, USA.



The lumen of the gastrointestinal tract contains many substances produced from the breakdown of foodstuffs, from salivary, esophageal, intestinal, hepatic, and pancreatic secretions, and from sloughed cells present in the gastrointestinal lumen. Although these substances were traditionally regarded as waste products, there is increasing realization that many can be biologically active, either as signalling compounds or as nutrients. For example, proteins are broken down into amino acids, which are then sensed by nutrient receptors. The gut microbiome, which is at highest abundance in the ileocecum, has powerful metabolic activity, digesting and breaking down unabsorbed carbohydrates, proteins, and other ingested nutrients into phenols, amines, volatile organic compounds, methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulfide into volatile fatty acids, also called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).


These latter substances are the topic of this review. In this review, we will briefly discuss recent advances in the understanding SCFA production, signalling, and absorption, followed by a detailed description and discussion of trials of SCFAs, probiotics, and prebiotics in the treatment of gastrointestinal disease, in particular ulcerative colitis (UC), pouchitis, short bowel syndrome, and obesity.

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