Short chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health

E. E. Blaak* (Corresponding Author), E.E. Canfora, S. Theis, G. Frost, A.K. Groen, G. Mithieux, A. Nauta, Karen Scott, B. Stahl, J. van Harsselaar, R. van Tol, K. Verbeke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Evidence is accumulating that short chain fatty acids (SCFA) play an important role in the maintenance of gut and metabolic health. The SCFA acetate, propionate and butyrate are produced from the microbial fermentation of
indigestible carbohydrates and appear to be key mediators of the beneficial effects elicited by the gut microbiome.
Microbial SCFA production is essential for gut integrity by regulating the luminal pH, mucus production, providing fuel for epithelial cells and effects on mucosal immune function. SCFA also directly modulate host metabolic health through a range of tissue-specific mechanisms related to appetite regulation, energy expenditure, glucose homeostasis and immunomodulation. Therefore, an increased microbial SCFA production can be considered as a
health benefit, but data are mainly based on animal studies, whereas well-controlled human studies are limited. In this review an expert group by ILSI Europe’s Prebiotics Task Force discussed the current scientific knowledge on SCFA to consider the relationship between SCFA and gut and metabolic health with a particular focus on human
evidence. Overall, the available mechanistic data and limited human data on the metabolic consequences of elevated
gut-derived SCFA production strongly suggest that increasing SCFA production could be a valuable strategy in the preventing gastro-intestinal dysfunction, obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nevertheless, there is an urgent need for well controlled longer term human SCFA intervention studies, including measurement of SCFA fluxes and
kinetics, the heterogeneity in response based on metabolic phenotype, the type of dietary fibre and fermentation site in fibre intervention studies and the control for factors that could shape the microbiome like diet, physical
activity and use of medication.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)411-455
Number of pages45
JournalBeneficial Microbes
Issue number5
Early online date31 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • prebiotics
  • SCFA
  • dietary fibre
  • gut health
  • metabolic health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Short chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Blaak, E. E., Canfora, E. E., Theis, S., Frost, G., Groen, A. K., Mithieux, G., Nauta, A., Scott, K., Stahl, B., van Harsselaar, J., van Tol, R., & Verbeke, K. (2020). Short chain fatty acids in human gut and metabolic health. Beneficial Microbes, 11(5), 411-455.