Acarbose inhibits starch digestion in the human small intestine. This increases the amount of starch available for microbial fermentation to acetate, propionate, and butyrate in the colon. Relatively large amounts of butyrate are produced from starch by colonic microbes. Colonic epithelial cells use butyrate as an energy source, and butyrate causes the differentiation of colon cancer cells. In this study we investigated whether colonic fermentation pathways changed during treatment with acarbose. We examined fermentations by fecal suspensions obtained from subjects who participated in an acarbose-placebo crossover trial. After incubation with [1-13C]glucose and 12CO2 or with unlabeled glucose and 13CO2, the distribution of 13C in product C atoms was determined by nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometry and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Regardless of the treatment, acetate, propionate, and butyrate were produced from pyruvate formed by the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas pathway. Considerable amounts of acetate were also formed by the reduction of CO2. Butyrate formation from glucose increased and propionate formation decreased with acarbose treatment. Concomitantly, the amounts of CO2 reduced to acetate were 30% of the total acetate in untreated subjects and 17% of the total acetate in the treated subjects. The acetate, propionate, and butyrate concentrations were 57, 20, and 23% of the total final concentrations, respectively, for the untreated subjects and 57, 13, and 30% of the total final concentrations, respectively, for the treated subjects.