Short-chain fatty acids and bile acids in human faeces are associated with the intestinal cholesterol conversion status

Br J Pharmacol. 2021 Aug;178(16):3342-3353. doi: 10.1111/bph.15440. Epub 2021 May 5.


Background and purpose: The analysis of human faecal metabolites can provide an insight into metabolic interactions between gut microbiota and the host organism. The creation of metabolic profiles in faeces has received little attention until now, and reference values, especially in the context of dietary and therapeutic interventions, are missing. Exposure to xenobiotics significantly affects the physiology of the microbiome, and microbiota manipulation and short-chain fatty acid administration have been proposed as treatment targets for several diseases. The aim of the present study is to give concomitant concentration ranges of faecal sterol species, bile acids and short-chain fatty acids, based on a large cohort.

Experimental approach: Sterol species, bile acids and short-chain fatty acids in human faeces from 165 study participants were quantified by LC-MS/MS. For standardization, we refer all values to dry weight of faeces. Based on the individual intestinal sterol conversion, we classified participants into low and high converters according to their coprostanol/cholesterol ratio.

Key results: Low converters excrete more straight-chain fatty acids and bile acids than high converters; 5th and 95th percentile and median of bile acids and short-chain fatty acids were calculated for both groups.

Conclusion and implications: We give concentration ranges for 16 faecal metabolites that can serve as reference values. Patient stratification into high or low sterol converter groups is associated with significant differences in faecal metabolites with biological activities. Such stratification should then allow better assessment of faecal metabolites before therapeutic interventions.

Linked articles: This article is part of a themed issue on Oxysterols, Lifelong Health and Therapeutics. To view the other articles in this section visit

Keywords: bile acids; faecal short chain fatty acids; sterols.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts*
  • Cholesterol
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Feces
  • Humans
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry*


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Fatty Acids, Volatile
  • Cholesterol