Butyric acid: structure, properties, and food sources

Chemical structure of butyric acid

Butyric acid (4 carbon atoms), from Greek word βούτυρος, meaning butter, was discovered by Lieben and Rossi in 1869.
It is a saturated (no double bond so in shorthand 4:0) fatty acid member of sub-group called short chain fatty acids (SCFA), up to 6 carbon atoms.


Butyric Acid
Fig. 1 – Butanoic Acid

Molecular weight: 88.10512 g/mol
Molecular formula: C4H8O2
IUPAC name: butanoic acid
CAS registry number: 107-92-6
PubChem: 264

In purified form, it is a colorless oily liquid soluble in water, with melting point at -7.9 °C (17.78 °F; 265.25 K) and boiling point at 163.5 °C (326.3 °F; 436.65 K) at 760 mmHg.

Other names

  • butyrate
  • ethylacetic acid
  • propylformic acid
  • butanoate
  • 2-butanoate
  • 1-propanecarboxylic acid
  • 4:0

Food sources of butyric acid

It occurs as glycerol ester in animal fats like those present in butter (it makes up 3-4 percent of butter fat), Parmigiano and other cheeses and plant oils.
The unpleasant odor of rancid butter is due to hydrolysis, and subsequent liberation, of this acid from glycerol.


Akoh C.C. and Min D.B. “Food lipids: chemistry, nutrition, and biotechnology” 3th ed. 2008

Chow Ching K. “Fatty acids in foods and their health implication” 3th ed. 2008

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