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Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), also referred to as volatile fatty acids (VFAs),[1] are fatty acids with less than six carbon atoms.[2] Free SCFAs can cross the blood-brain barrier via monocarboxylate transporters.[3][4]


List of SCFAsEdit

Lipid number Name Salt/Ester Name Formula Mass
Common Systematic Common Systematic Molecular Structural
C1:0 Formic acid Methanoic acid Formate Methanoate CH2O2 HCOOH 46.03
C2:0 Acetic acid Ethanoic acid Acetate Ethanoate C2H4O2 CH3COOH 60.05
C3:0 Propionic acid Propanoic acid Propionate Propanoate C3H6O2 CH3CH2COOH 74.08
C4:0 Butyric acid Butanoic acid Butyrate Butanoate C4H8O2 CH3(CH2)2COOH 88.11
C4:0 Isobutyric acid 2-Methylpropanoic acid Isobutyrate 2-Methylpropanoate C4H8O2 (CH3)2CHCOOH 88.11
C5:0 Valeric acid Pentanoic acid Valerate Pentanoate C5H10O2 CH3(CH2)3COOH 102.13
C5:0 Isovaleric acid 3-Methylbutanoic acid Isovalerate 3-Methylbutanoate C5H10O2 (CH3)2CHCH2COOH 102.13


SCFAs are produced when dietary fiber is fermented in the colon.[5] Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the three most common SCFAs.

SCFAs and medium-chain fatty acids are primarily absorbed through the portal vein during lipid digestion,[6] while long-chain fatty acids are packed into chylomicrons and enter lymphatic capillaries, and enter the blood first at the subclavian vein.

SCFAs have diverse physiological roles in body functions. They can affect the production of lipids, energy and vitamins.[7] Up to 10% of the body's energy can come from SCFAs. Butyrate is particularly important for colon health because it is the primary energy source for colonic epithelial cells. The liver can use acetate for energy.[8][9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Role of Volatile Fatty Acids in Development of the Cecal Microflora in Broiler Chickens during Growth" at
  2. ^ Brody, Tom (1999). Nutritional Biochemistry (2nd ed.). Academic Press. p. 320. ISBN 978-0121348366. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  3. ^ Tsuji A (2005). "Small molecular drug transfer across the blood-brain barrier via carrier-mediated transport systems". NeuroRx. 2 (1): 54–62. doi:10.1602/neurorx.2.1.54. PMC 539320. PMID 15717057. Uptake of valproic acid was reduced in the presence of medium-chain fatty acids such as hexanoate, octanoate, and decanoate, but not propionate or butyrate, indicating that valproic acid is taken up into the brain via a transport system for medium-chain fatty acids, not short-chain fatty acids. ... Based on these reports, valproic acid is thought to be transported bidirectionally between blood and brain across the BBB via two distinct mechanisms, monocarboxylic acid-sensitive and medium-chain fatty acid-sensitive transporters, for efflux and uptake, respectively.
  4. ^ Vijay N, Morris ME (2014). "Role of monocarboxylate transporters in drug delivery to the brain". Curr. Pharm. Des. 20 (10): 1487–98. doi:10.2174/13816128113199990462. PMC 4084603. PMID 23789956. Monocarboxylate transporters (MCTs) are known to mediate the transport of short chain monocarboxylates such as lactate, pyruvate and butyrate. ... MCT1 and MCT4 have also been associated with the transport of short chain fatty acids such as acetate and formate which are then metabolized in the astrocytes [78].
  5. ^ Wong, J. M.; De Souza, R; Kendall, C. W.; Emam, A; Jenkins, D. J. (2006). "Colonic health: Fermentation and short chain fatty acids". Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology. 40 (3): 235–43. doi:10.1097/00004836-200603000-00015. PMID 16633129.
  6. ^ Kuksis, Arnis (2000). "Biochemistry of Glycerolipids and Formation of Chylomicrons". In Christophe, Armand B.; DeVriese, Stephanie (eds.). Fat Digestion and Absorption. The American Oil Chemists Society. p. 163. ISBN 978-1893997127. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  7. ^ Byrne, C. S; Chambers, E. S; Morrison, D. J; Frost, G (2015). "The role of short chain fatty acids in appetite regulation and energy homeostasis". International Journal of Obesity. 39 (9): 1331–1338. doi:10.1038/ijo.2015.84. PMC 4564526. PMID 25971927.
  8. ^ Roy, Claude C.; Kien, C. Lawrence; Bouthillier, Lise; Levy, Emile (2006). "Short-Chain Fatty Acids: Ready for Prime Time?". Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 21 (4): 351–366. doi:10.1177/0115426506021004351. ISSN 0884-5336. PMID 16870803.
  9. ^ Rivière, Audrey; Selak, Marija; Lantin, David; Leroy, Frédéric; De Vuyst, Luc (28 June 2016). "Bifidobacteria and Butyrate-Producing Colon Bacteria: Importance and Strategies for Their Stimulation in the Human Gut". Frontiers in Microbiology. 7: 979. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00979. ISSN 1664-302X. PMC 4923077. PMID 27446020.

Further readingEdit