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Short Chain Fatty Acids: Why do you need them?

* the opinions expressed are those of the author and not Nutrition Ink.

What is a short chain fatty acid (SCFA) you ask? Well, SCFA’s are made from the fermentation of resistant starch in the large intestine by the colon cells. There are three main groups of SCFA’s: Acetate, Butyrate and Propionate. Simple enough, right?

The primary SCFA, Butyrate, has many health benefits that have taken the medical community by surprise. It has been shown to increase the mucus production within the intestinal cells, increase the intestinal blood flow, repair the gut mucosa lining and improve the permeability of the lining of the colon!

Butyrate has also been shown to decrease inflammation and diarrhea and protect against the growth of cancer causing cells in the colon. So many great benefits from one substance made from the breakdown of resistant starch, who knew? Anyone with chronic inflammation throughout the body and in the gut may benefit from more butyrate fermentation.

And what about Acetate and Propionate you ask? Acetate has been shown to increase the synthesis of cholesterol while Propionate inhibits the synthesis of cholesterol. Having a good balance of these two SCFA’s is important for the control over how much cholesterol is synthesized in the body. These SCFA’s for folks with dyslipidemia and high cholesterol could really make a difference in their health.

Ok, so SCFA’s are important to tame down inflammation in the gut, reduce growth of cancer causing cells, support tight junctions between colon cells (reducing leaky guts) and so much more. Great, now where do they come from you ask?

This is where resistant starch comes into play. The intake of resistant starch is where you can get your bulk of SCFA’s synthesis in the colon. You may also make SCFA’s by the digestion of proteins and amino acids. Usually 90% of the SCFA’s come from the fermentation of resistant starch and 10% is from protein and amino acid fermentation.

So what foods have resistant starch, you ask? Great question. Resistant starch can be found in foods such as:

  • Cooked then cooled pasta, potatoes and rice (increases resistant starch


  • Oats, barley, beans, lentils, peas

  • Green bananas, plantains

  • Cassava, malanga, taro, yams

  • Garlic, leeks, onions, guar gum

  • Apples, oranges, artichokes, asparagus

  • Whole grains

All of these wonderful foods to consume to increase your body’s production of SCFA’s, could it get any better, you ask? Yes! Did you know that the word “butter” comes from the word butyric acid? Turns out that butter, yes, butter is a phenomenal source of the SCFA, Butyrate. Life couldn’t be any sweeter now could it?

Now, imagine all the people who could be helped by this amazing fermentation of resistant starch. People with:

  • Diabetes

  • Weight loss struggles

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome

  • Crohn’s disease

  • Ulcerative colitis

  • Diverticulous

  • Colorectal cancer

  • Psoriasis

  • Arthritis

Here is a recipe to increase your overall intake of SCFA’s:

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

16oz whole-grain pasta (Whole wheat, quinoa, brown rice)

8 oz pesto

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup artichoke hearts, chopped

½ of a red onion, diced

1 cucumber, cubed

½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved

½ cup feta cheese, cubed

½ cup green beans, slightly steamed

Cook the pasta according to directions on the box. Drain and cool by spraying with cold water in a colander. In a big bowl mix all of the ingredients together. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours to let flavors meld. Enjoy right away or have it the next day to enjoy even more resistant starch!

Written by: Asha Hagstoz NDTR, who graduated from Keene State College in 2016 with her BS in Nutrition and is currently in her dietetic internship program. Asha also has a culinary arts degree and loves to cook for her family and friends. She has worked as a Nutrition counselor at WIC with pregnant/breastfeeding women, infants and children. Asha also loves researching nutrition related attributes in and around the microbiome.


Baxter N, Schmidt A, Venkataraman A, Kim K, Waldron C, Schmidt T. Dynamics of human gut microbiota and short-chain fatty acids in response to dietary interventions with three fermentable fibers. mBio. 2019;10:e02566-18.

Parada Venegas D, De la Fuente M, Landskron G, et al. Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs)-mediated gut epithelial and immune regulation and its relevance for inflammatory bowel diseases. Front. Immunol. 2019;10:277. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.00277

Rios-Covian D, Ruas-Madiedo P, Margolles A, et al. Intestinal short chain fatty acids and their link with diet and human health. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2016. 7(185):1-9.

How short-chain fatty acids affect health and weight. Healthline website. Accessed November 30, 2019.

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