The role of short chain fatty acids in appetite regulation and energy homeostasis

Int J Obes (Lond). 2015 Sep;39(9):1331-8. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2015.84. Epub 2015 May 14.


Over the last 20 years there has been an increasing interest in the influence of the gastrointestinal tract on appetite regulation. Much of the focus has been on the neuronal and hormonal relationship between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. There is now mounting evidence that the colonic microbiota and their metabolic activity have a significant role in energy homeostasis. The supply of substrate to the colonic microbiota has a major impact on the microbial population and the metabolites they produce, particularly short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are produced when non-digestible carbohydrates, namely dietary fibres and resistant starch, undergo fermentation by the colonic microbiota. Both the consumption of fermentable carbohydrates and the administration of SCFAs have been reported to result in a wide range of health benefits including improvements in body composition, glucose homeostasis, blood lipid profiles and reduced body weight and colon cancer risk. However, published studies tend to report the effects that fermentable carbohydrates and SCFAs have on specific tissues and metabolic processes, and fail to explain how these local effects translate into systemic effects and the mitigation of disease risk. Moreover, studies tend to investigate SCFAs collectively and neglect to report the effects associated with individual SCFAs. Here, we bring together the recent evidence and suggest an overarching model for the effects of SCFAs on one of their beneficial aspects: appetite regulation and energy homeostasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Appetite Regulation / physiology*
  • Dietary Fiber / metabolism
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile / metabolism*
  • Fermentation
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / microbiology*
  • Homeostasis
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology*
  • Microbiota*
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / prevention & control*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile