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Benefits of Sodium Butyrate

by
author image Sirah Dubois
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.
Benefits of Sodium Butyrate
A rice and vegetable dish that is high in fiber. Photo Credit papkin/iStock/Getty Images

Sodium butyrate is the sodium salt of butyric acid, which is a short-chain fatty acid. It’s a natural byproduct of the fermentation of dietary fibers in your large intestine. Some animal-based studies suggest that taking sodium butyrate as a supplement may restore memory loss and cognitive impairment in those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of senility. However, much more human research is needed before any specific recommendations can be made. Currently, sodium butyrate is not considered part of any orthodox medical treatment regimen for Alzheimer’s disease. Consult your doctor or a neurologist before experimenting with sodium butyrate supplementation.

Sodium Butyrate

Butyrate is a fatty acid that’s produced by anaerobic bacteria fermentation of dietary fiber, such as cellulose, in your colon. It can combine with sodium to form a salt that’s called sodium butyrate. The natural function of butyrate in your colon is not fully understood, but it acts as a powerful detoxifier of ammonia and neurotoxins and it encourages the formation of “friendly” or symbiotic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract, according to the book “Human Biochemistry.” It has been suggested that butyrate may also inhibit the development of colon cancer, although human research is lacking.

Research

Research on mammals suggests that sodium butyrate can alter gene expression in cells and arrest cell proliferation by inhibition of an enzyme cascade referred to as HDAC, according to a study published in a 2003 edition of The Journal of Nutrition. Sodium butyrate is the most common HDAC inhibitor because it’s readily formed in the colon by fermentation of fiber. It seems to have especially noticeable effects on pancreatic, liver and brain cells. In a study published in a 2011 edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, sodium butyrate was found to improve memory function in an Alzheimer's disease mouse model when administered at an advanced stage of the disease.

Implications

Because sodium butyrate is able to induce cell cycle arrest in various cancer cells and improve memory and cognitive function in animal studies, there is hope that it can be used in supplemental form to help people fight cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. The research also indicates that eating a high-fiber diet may be even more important than previously thought because of the sodium butyrate that’s naturally produced in your colon.

Cautions

Although the animal-based research is very promising, no ethical recommendations can be made for sodium butyrate supplementation. People with cancer or various forms of senility are recommended to consult their doctors before embarking on any supplement regimen. However, because most people don’t eat enough fiber, including more fiber in your diet is usually a safe and beneficial strategy.

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