Short chain fatty acids (SCFA), including acetate, propionate, and butyrate, are produced during bacterial fermentation of undigested carbohydrates in the human colon. In this study, we applied a stable-isotope dilution method to quantify the in vivo colonic production of SCFA in healthy humans after consumption of inulin. Twelve healthy subjects performed a test day during which a primed continuous intravenous infusion with [1-(13)C]acetate, [1-(13)C]propionate and [1-(13)C]butyrate (12, 1.2 and 0.6 μmol·kg(-1)·min(-1), respectively) was applied. They consumed 15 g of inulin with a standard breakfast. Breath and blood samples were collected at regular times during the day over a 12 h period. The endogenous rate of appearance of acetate, propionate, and butyrate was 13.3 ± 4.8, 0.27 ± 0.09, and 0.28 ± 0.12 μmol·kg(-1)·min(-1), respectively. Colonic inulin fermentation was estimated to be 137 ± 75 mmol acetate, 11 ± 9 mmol propionate, and 20 ± 17 mmol butyrate over 12 h, assuming that 40%, 10%, and 5% of colonic derived acetate, propionate, and butyrate enter the systemic circulation. In conclusion, inulin is mainly fermented into acetate and, to lesser extents, into butyrate and propionate. Stable isotope technology allows quantifying the production of the three main SCFA in vivo and proved to be a practical tool to investigate the extent and pattern of SCFA production.
Keywords: colonic fermentation; inulin; short chain fatty acids.