Harnessing Butyric Acid for Good
Short-chain fatty acids such as butyric acid play a major role in the body of animals and humans, promoting the growth of tissues that line the gastrointestinal tract and aiding in the absorption of nutrients, which ultimately leads to delivering energy.
In monogastric animals, the challenge is delivering this volatile fatty acid to the hindgut. Research has shown that butyric acid is necessary for the normal development of epithelial cells in simple stomach animals which aid in the absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. Epithelial cells are made up of villi—tiny, finger-like projections that protrude from the epithelial lining of the intestinal wall—which increase the internal surface area of the intestinal walls for greater nutrient absorption. This is useful because digested nutrients (including monosaccharide and amino acids) pass into the semipermeable villi through diffusion, which is effective only at short distances. The higher the height of the villi present on the epithelial cells, the higher the rate of absorption and ultimately, energy.
In humans, butyrate and its derivatives may even have potential application in the prevention and treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. Some investigators suggest that inflammatory bowel disorders may be caused or exacerbated by a deficiency of butyrate.
While supplementing with butyric acid is clearly a good thing, adding it to formulations is rife with challenges:
- Its volatility makes it difficult to meet label claims
- Its offensive odor leads to handling issues
- Unprotected, its effectivess is compromised where it can have the greatest impact – the distal portion of the gastrointenstinal tract
The good news is, microencapsulating can help overcome all of these challenges and provide effective nutrient utilization with activities as high as 70%, as compared to most available products offering 35-45% activities.