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In vivo measurement of colonic butyrate metabolism in patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis
  1. E J Simpsona,
  2. M A S Chapmanb,
  3. J Dawsonc,
  4. D Berryb,
  5. I A Macdonalda,
  6. A Coleb
  1. aSchool of Biomedical Science, Nottingham University, UK, bSchool of Clinical Sciences, cSchool of Biological Sciences
  1. Dr M A S Chapman, Department of Colorectal Surgery, Good Hope Hospital, Rectory Road, Sutton Coldfield B75 7RR, UK.


BACKGROUND Butyrate, a short chain fatty acid produced by bacterial fermentation, is a major fuel source for the colonocyte. In vitro work has shown that ulcerative colitis may be characterised by a metabolic defect in colonocyte butyrate oxidation.

AIMS To investigate the rate of metabolism of rectally administered butyrate in patients with quiescent colitis.

METHODS [1-13C]-butyrate enemas were administered to 11 patients with long standing quiescent ulcerative colitis and to 10 control patients. The rate of production of 13CO2 in exhaled breath over four hours was measured by isotope ratio mass spectrometry combined with indirect calorimetry in order to measure CO2 production. This allowed calculation of the patients' resting energy expenditure and respiratory quotient.

RESULTS Over a four hour period, 325 (SEM 21) μmol 13CO2 was recovered in breath samples from the colitis group compared with 322 (17) μmol from the control group (NS). The respiratory quotient of the colitic group was significantly lower than that of the control group.

CONCLUSION There was no difference in the rate of metabolism of butyrate between the two groups. It is unlikely that there is a primary metabolic defect of butyrate metabolism in patients with quiescent ulcerative colitis.

  • ulcerative colitis
  • in vivo butyrate metabolism

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  • Abbreviations used in this paper:
    body mass index
    resting energy expenditure
    respiratory quotient
    short chain fatty acids
    carbon dioxide production