Short-Chain Fatty Acids:
Postbiotic Metabolites That Lower Cholesterol

By Ross Pelton, RPh, PhD, CCN

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are one of the most important groups of postbiotic metabolites produced by probiotic bacteria. SCFAs have a number of important health-regulating functions in the intestinal tract including reducing inflammationi, establishing and maintaining optimal acid/base balanceii and they are also the main source of nutrition for the renewal of healthy new cells that line the gastrointestinal tract.iii

Short-chain fatty acids also get absorbed into systemic circulation. When they reach the liver, they inhibit the activity of the key enzyme that is responsible for cholesterol synthesis. Studies in both animals and humans have shown that SCFAs act to reduce levels of both cholesterol and triglycerides.iv

Short chain fatty acids function to decrease cholesterol by several mechanisms including inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver, redistributing cholesterol from plasma to the liver and also interfering with cholesterol absorption.v

To date, only a few clinical trials have been conducted in humans. However, this is a new area of research that shows how one particular class of postbiotic metabolites, namely short chain fatty acids, impact human health by playing a role in the regulation of cholesterol levels.


i Vinolo MA et al. Regulation of Inflammation by Short Chain Fatty Acids. Nutrients. 2011 Oct;3(10):858-876.
ii Wong JM, et al. Colonic health: fermentation and short chain fatty acids. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Mar;40(3):235-43.
iii Hague A, et al. The role of butyrate in human colonic epithelial cells: an energy source of inducer of differentiation and apoptosis? Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 1966;55:937-943.
iv Byrne CS, et al. The role of short chain fatty acids in appetite regulation and energy homeostasis. International Journal of Obesity. May 14, 2015;39:1331-1338.
v Pereira DL and Gibson GR. Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans. Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37(4):259-81.