Butyrate is a short chain fatty acid derived from the microbial fermentation of dietary fibers in the colon. In the last decade, multiple beneficial effects of butyrate at intestinal and extraintestinal level have been demonstrated. The mechanisms of action of butyrate are different and many of these involve an epigenetic regulation of gene expression through the inhibition of histone deacetylase. There is a growing interest in butyrate because its impact on epigenetic mechanisms will lead to more specific and efficacious therapeutic strategies for the prevention and treatment of different diseases ranging from genetic/metabolic conditions to neurological degenerative disorders. This review is focused on recent data regarding the epigenetic effects of butyrate with potential clinical implications in human medicine.
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