March 11, 2014

Why Our Bodies Love Butter & Ghee.

Photo: Flickr

This week I will be reporting on the amazing health benefits of butter and ghee when eaten in the diet and during cleanses.

This is primarily due to a health-beneficial short chain fatty acid called butyric acid, which got its name from the latin word for butter (butyrum.)

Butyric acid was first detected in butter, and now ghee—which is a kind of concentrated, or clarified, butter and a food staple in Ayurveda—is the highest known food source of this beneficial fatty acid.

As is turns out, the body might love ghee so much because the intestinal tract makes its own butyric acid—or, more accurately, our bugs make it. This butyric acid produced in the gut has been found to perform many functions. It boosts immunity, is the primary fuel source for the cells of the colon, feeds the good microbes, and much more.

Perhaps even more exciting is the discovery of the actual microbe that produces butyric acid in the gut. Clostridium butyricum has been used in Asia as a probiotic since the 1940’s. It proliferates naturally in the small and large intestines of healthy folks.

In one study, people with less than great digestion have less butyric acid production in the gut. (5)

Some of the benefits of butyric acid:

• Helps digestion, maintains the integrity of the gastrointestinal mucosa
• Blocks the growth of bad bacteria in the gut and interferes with the growth of highly toxic bacteria
• Helps the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium
• Helps loose bowel function and regulates abnormal bowel movements
• Helps adjust water and electrolyte concentration in the intestinal tract

Foods that contain the highest sources of Clostridium butyricum, according to one study, are: (2) potato skins, yogurt and cream.

In another study, the butyric acid produced by Clostridium butyricum supported the health of the intestinal mucosa and normal bowel function in inflammatory bowel conditions. (3)

In another very comprehensive study, butyric acid production in the gut was found to deliver a host of remarkable benefits that extend far beyond the gut: (4)

o Increases insulin sensitivity
o Supports healthy levels of both good and bad cholesterol
o Increases energy production and efficiency of energy utilization
o Reduction in fatty tissue
o Reduction in hunger levels
o Boosts killer T cell activity
o Increases thermogenesis in the body

This study also reminded us that we can make our own butyric acid in the intestinal tract by feeding the microbes, such as Clostridium butyricum, who make it. This can be accomplished with the inclusion of higher amounts of fiber in the diet. Try to get more than 50 grams per day.

Lately I have been making some not-so-subtle reminders to increase our intake of healthy fats (like ghee) and fiber. This is another one to be added to that bank!

ghee and your microbes infographic



1. Uniquebiotech.com. Clostridium butyricum
2. PubMed Source: DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2010.06.028
3. Int J Mol Med. 2004 Apr;13(4):577-80. Clostridium butyricum, a probiotic derivative, suppresses dextran sulfate sodium-induced experimental colitis in rats.
4. Butyrate Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Increases Energy Expenditure in Mice.
DOI: 10.2337/db08-1637. J. Diab July 2009 vol. 58 no. 7 1509-1517.
5. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.66.4. 1654-1661 .2000 Appl. Environ. Microbiol. April 2000 vol. 66 no 4.


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Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: Flickr / Author

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