Metabolites produced by microbial fermentation in the human intestine, especially short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), are known to play important roles in colonic and systemic health. Our aim here was to advance our understanding of how and why their concentrations and proportions vary between individuals. We have analysed faecal concentrations of microbial fermentation acids from 10 human volunteer studies, involving 163 subjects, conducted at the Rowett Institute, Aberdeen, UK over a 7-year period. In baseline samples, the % butyrate was significantly higher, whilst % iso-butyrate and % iso-valerate were significantly lower, with increasing total SCFA concentration. The decreasing proportions of iso-butyrate and iso-valerate, derived from amino acid fermentation, suggest that fibre intake was mainly responsible for increased SCFA concentrations. We propose that the increase in % butyrate among faecal SCFA is largely driven by a decrease in colonic pH resulting from higher SCFA concentrations. Consistent with this, both total SCFA and % butyrate increased significantly with decreasing pH across five studies for which faecal pH measurements were available. Colonic pH influences butyrate production through altering the stoichiometry of butyrate formation by butyrate-producing species, resulting in increased acetate uptake and butyrate formation, and facilitating increased relative abundance of butyrate-producing species (notably Roseburia and Eubacterium rectale).
The Rowett Institute (University of Aberdeen) receives financial support from the Scottish Government Rural and Environmental Sciences and Analytical Services (RESAS). Studies 779 and 780 were supported by a grant from the World Cancer Research Fund.To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://doi.org/10.1017/gmb.2022.1.
- Short chain fatty acids
- branched chain fatty acids
- human gut microbiota
- faecal pH