Increasing fecal butyrate in ulcerative colitis patients by diet: controlled pilot study

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2003 Mar;9(2):116-21. doi: 10.1097/00054725-200303000-00005.


Topical butyrate has been shown to be effective in the treatment of ulcerative colitis (UC). Butyrate is derived from colonic fermentation of dietary fiber, and our aim was to study whether UC patients could safely increase the fecal butyrate level by dietary means. We enrolled 22 patients with quiescent UC (mean age, 44 years; 45% women; median time from last relapse, 1 year) in a controlled pilot trial lasting 3 months. The patients were instructed to add 60 g oat bran (corresponding to 20 g dietary fiber) to the daily diet, mainly as bread slices. Fecal short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including butyrate, disease activity, and gastrointestinal symptoms were recorded every 4 weeks. During the oat bran intervention the fecal butyrate concentration increased by 36% at 4 weeks (from 11 +/- 2 (mean +/- SEM) to 15 +/- 2 micromol/g feces) (p < 0.01). The mean butyrate concentration over the entire test period was 14 +/- 1 micromol/g feces (p < 0.05). Remaining fecal SCFA levels were unchanged. No patient showed signs of colitis relapse. Unlike controls, the patients showed no increase in gastrointestinal complaints during the trial. Yet patients reporting abdominal pain and reflux complaints at entry showed significant improvement at 12 weeks that returned to baseline 3 months later. This pilot study shows that patients with quiescent UC can safely take a diet rich in oat bran specifically to increase the fecal butyrate level. This may have clinical implications and warrants studies of the long-term benefits of using oat bran in the maintenance therapy in UC.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Avena*
  • Butyrates / administration & dosage
  • Butyrates / metabolism*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / diagnosis
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / therapy*
  • Dietary Fiber*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Probability
  • Reference Values
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Butyrates
  • Dietary Fiber