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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Linda

Short-chain fatty acids are produced when dietary fiber is metabolized by “good” bacteria in the colon. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the world. By eating fiber and feeding the bacteria that create butyrate, one of the most beneficial short-chain fatty acids, we may lower our risk of this cancer.

Short-chain fatty acids, like acetate and butyrate, may also suppress inflammation in the body. Butyrate is the primary fuel feeding the intestinal epithelium, the layer of cells that forms the lining of both the small and large intestines. Short-chain fatty acids inhibit the growth of bad bacteria, increase the absorption of minerals like calcium, and help control appetite by binding to and activating cell receptors that alter metabolism.

More of these beneficial short-chain fatty acids are produced when we follow a plant-based diet than an animal-based diet. Whole grains left intact, rather than ground into flour, appear to lead to higher production of short-chain fatty acids. Another food used by good bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids is resistant starch, which comes from cooked cornmeal, potatoes, pasta, and other starches.

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