Photograph of fatty acids

Short chain fatty acids.

Starplus™ starch for healthier bowels

CSIRO has developed a method that enables the delivery of specific SCFA directly to the colon.

  • 7 November 2007 | Updated 14 October 2011

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cause of death from cancer worldwide and the second most commonly occurring cancer in Australia (after skin cancer).

What CSIRO did

Short chain fatty acids (SCFA), such as butyric, acetic and propionic acids, are normally produced during fermentation of fibre in the human colon. 

SCFA are critical for the maintenance of bowel health and colonic function.

Under normal circumstances SCFA are produced by fermentation of food by colonic bacteria.

However, the colonic bacteria varies between individuals and limits the ability of some people to digest fermentable food material that reaches the colon.

CSIRO’s Starplus technology incorporates natural starch from cereals into foods or dietary supplements to improve bowel health and colon function.

The CSIRO created Starplus™ is a method of delivering SCFA predictably to the colon by bonding them with starches, or other edible complex carbohydrates.

Using this technology, natural starch (from corn, barley and other cereals) can be modified to yield a product that can be incorporated into foods or produced as a dietary supplement.

These specialised functional starches can also be incorporated into preparations to deliver specific nutritional benefits to patients requiring feeding by tube, or to those with compromised intestinal function.

The outcomes

There are early indications that this technology will assist in the management of ulcerative colitis, diarrhoea and constipation.

Increasing the level of these acids has the potential to have significant preventative and therapeutic effects on gastrointestinal diseases, including:

  • reducing the risk of developing colorectal cancer
  • in the treatment and prevention of ulcerative colitis irritable bowel disease and diarrhoea
  • assisting in recovery from treatments including chemotherapy and surgery.

One SCFA product, butyrate, is of particular interest due to its important metabolic and cell regulatory functions which may give it a role reducing the incidence of colorectal cancer, and assisting in the treatment of colorectal cancer.

Starplus™ has been formulated to rapidly deliver (orally) optimal concentrations of SCFA, in particular butyric acid, to the proximal and distal colon.

There has been no other report of a functional food or therapeutic that achieves this degree of rapid and specific delivery of SCFA to the distal colon.

More information

CSIRO has two key patents in this area.

The first is the core patent which secures the technology for the modification of the starches and its role in the promotion and management of bowel health.

The second patent protects the technology's application in naso-enteral formulations.

The delivery system will undergo commercial development in several areas with opportunities for application in the food and food-based pharmaceutical industries.

CSIRO is interested in forming research collaborations and commercial partnerships to facilitate the development of Starplus™, and the next generation of protective foods that will reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the Australian community.

Learn how to Partner with CSIRO.

Starplus is a trademark of CSIRO Australia.