Butyrate is an important short chain fatty acid that provides fuel for colon cells and may help protect against colon cancer.
Butyrate has been shown to significantly inhibit the growth of cancerous colon cells. Scientists have found a human gene that stops the growth of cancer cells when activated by fiber processing in the colon. Although scientists have long linked butyrate to overall reductions in the incidence of colon cancer, the molecular basis of that benefit has remained largely unknown. Butyrate effects a chemical "unloosening" of molecules that otherwise bind and constrict the activity of the p21 gene. This gene is responsible for the manufacture of p21 protein, a compound that slows the growth of cancer cells. A separate study has indicated a possible benefit in breast cancer prevention.
Butyrate, a fatty acid, comes from two dietary sources. First, it is one of the metabolic end products of unabsorbed dietary carbohydrate that has been bacterially fermented in the gut. Butyrate is the single biggest metabolite of fiber. Second, the only direct source in the diet is from butter, which contains 3% butyrate. Adequate amounts of butyrate are necessary for the health of the large intestine cells.