HealthDay News — A fatty acid created when fiber ferments in the colon, propionate, appears to prevent weight gain and trim fat around the waist, results of a study published in Gut indicates.

The chemical compound, however, doesn’t seem to help patients lose pounds, and the preliminary study is so small that the findings could be misleading.

To test if colonic delivery of propionate would increase peptide Y (PYY) and glucagon like peptide-1 (GLP-1) secretion in humans, and reduce energy intake and weight gain in overweight adults, Edward S. Chambers, MD, of the Imperial College London, in the United Kingdom, and colleagues developed a chemical compound that included propionate.

In the study, the investigators gave the compound to half of 20 volunteers (n=10). The others received inulin, a plant fiber. The participants then got to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet. Those who had consumed the propionate at 14% less on average compared with the others, reported the researchers.

Next, the study team followed 39 overweight adults, aged 40 to 65 years, after assigning them to receive either a propionate supplement or inulin alone over a six-month period.

Of the 25 who took the supplement, just one participant gained more than 3% of their body weight, compared to six of the 24 participants that were assigned inulin. Those who took the supplement also had reduced intra-abdominal adipose tissue distribution and intrahepatocellular lipid content.

“The present results support a role specifically for colonic propionate in weight management and may provide a molecular explanation of recent data that have observed changes in the gut microbiome and associated short chain fatty acid (SCFA) production profiles in weight loss,” concluded the investigators.


  1. Chambers ES et al. Gut. 2014; doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-307913


The study was funded by the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.