Betaine

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Betaine is a methylating agent1 that is produced naturally in the body, consumed through the diet, and taken as a supplement. Since its discovery in the 19th century, betaine has been found to not only be crucial to cellular processes in the body, but it offers numerous health benefits as well. Let's take a closer look at the mechanisms behind betaine, and the benefits this powerful amino acid offers.

What Is Betaine?

Betaine is an amino acid that is also known as trimethylglycine. Structurally it is the amino acid called glycine with three methyl groups attached. This makes trimethylglycine a betaine molecule. It is important to understand that trimethylglycine is the most popular betaine2, and the first betaine discovered. So for those reasons, the names trimethylglycine and betaine are used interchangeably.

Beetroot was the first food source that betaine was isolated from, and it's commonly used in research to further understand the benefits of betaine on the human body.

What are the Mechanisms of Betaine?

Betaine has two main mechanisms2. The first mechanism is as a methyl donor. Betaine directly donates a methyl group in order to reduce homocysteine. Betaine also has the ability to passively support methyl donation throughout the entire body.

The second mechanism is as an osmolyte. An osmolyte regulates the water of cells, promoting hydration and balance within the cell. Betaine also provides resilience to stressors in the body.

Benefits of Betaine

Betaine is a naturally occurring methyl agent in the body that is also popular as a dietary supplement. Its health benefits reach to those who have cardiovascular disease, liver disease, impaired cognitive functions and diabetes

Cardiovascular Health

Over 600,000 people a year die from cardiovascular disease, according to the CDC. The disease narrows or blocks of arteries3 which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Conditions that have a negative effect on heart muscles, rhythm and valves are also considered to be a part of the broader term of cardiovascular disease.

Individuals with elevated levels of plasma total homocysteine are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Studies4 show that the ability of betaine to stabilize circulating homocysteine lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A different study5 claims that individuals who consumed either betaine supplements or consumed additional betaine reaped the benefits of lowering their risk of developing heart disease.

Cognitive Brain Function

Although betaine is most notably known for its benefits related to cardiovascular function, this mighty molecule also offers benefits to cognitive health as well. One study researched the effects of betaine on cognitive function. The results showed that those who consumed higher levels of betaine exhibited improved memory function6.

Resistance Training and Muscle Growth

The effects of betaine have been studied in men who participate in resistance training. Studies suggest enhanced muscle oxygen consumption. This same study7 also shows an increase in total repetitions and volume load in bench press exercises. A different study8 showed that six weeks of betaine supplementation resulted in improved body composition, arm size, as well as it increased the capabilities of bench press workouts.

Liver Disease Treatment

One of the most common symptoms of liver disease is some form of malnutrition. Studies9 show that increased consumption of betaine in individuals with liver disease resulted in the improvement of liver enzymes and liver histology. Additional research10 suggests betaine may be a great therapeutic agent for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Diabetes Prevention

Diabetes is a prevalent disease that affects millions of people in the U.S. Studies11 show that increased consumption of betaine can prevent or delay the incidence of developing diabetes for up to 10 years.

How to Use Betaine

The body does produce betaine on its own. The liver and the kidneys are responsible12 for the synthesis of naturally occurring betaine in the body. For those looking to increase levels of betaine, it can be consumed orally, typically through food sources or as a dietary supplement. A study13 conducted in the UK shows that the addition of betaine to food is an effective way to consume adequate quantities of betaine for cardiovascular benefits.

A separate study focused on the effect of beetroot juice on blood pressure. The results14 show that the consumption of beetroot juice reduces the blood pressure in men who are otherwise healthy. In addition to numerous betaine containing food sources, over the counter supplements are also available.

Betaine Recommended Daily Allowance

Betaine is not currently regulated by the FDA. More research is needed in order to establish recommended daily allowances. It is important to consult with your medical professional, as current health condition and the reasons for taking are important when determining optimal daily doses of betaine.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take betaine.

Foods That Contain Betaine

Those looking to increase levels of betaine can turn to food sources. Beetroot is the dietary food known to be the highest in concentrations of betaine, but it can also be found in other foods15 such as:

  • Beets
  • Sweet Potato
  • Turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Veal
  • Beef

Is Betaine Healthy?

Betaine is a naturally occurring methyl agent in the body that is also popular as a dietary supplement. Its health benefits reach to those who have cardiovascular disease, liver disease, impaired cognitive functions and diabetes. Consuming betaine can help you start living a healthier life.

Betaine Supplementation With Betaine HCL: Digestive Support

There are always certain instances where diet is not going to give you everything you need. There's no need to worry if your diet does not provide the necessary amount of betaine. Oral supplements are available for those who want to make sure they are consuming enough in their daily diet.

Betaine HCL: Digestive Support is a powerful, all-natural supplement that contains clinically-proven dosages of betaine and pepsin. Betaine HCL: Digestive Support is specially designed to naturally increase the efficiency of your digestive system. Learn more about Betaine HCL: Digestive Support and UMZU's line of natural supplements by visiting our online showroom.

With crazy, busy schedules it is easy to be tempted by fast food, processed food, and an abundance of poor eating choices. With obesity and bad eating habits on the rise, it's more important now than ever to pay attention to what you put in your body. Your health is one of the most important investments you can make. After all, you will need it for years to come! Take care to make sure you are receiving adequate amounts of both macronutrients and micronutrients, as well as engaging in healthy exercise. Begin your journey to a healthier you today!

Citations and Sources

1.
PubChem P. Betaine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/betaine. Accessed April 23, 2019.
2.
Trimethylglycine: Proven Health Benefits, Dosage, and more. Examine.com. https://examine.com/supplements/trimethylglycine/. Published January 16, 2014. Accessed April 23, 2019.
3.
Heart disease - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353118. Accessed April 23, 2019.
4.
Steenge G, Verhoef P, Katan M. Betaine supplementation lowers plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women. J Nutr. 2003;133(5):1291-1295. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12730412.
5.
Olthof M, van V, Boelsma E, Verhoef P. Low dose betaine supplementation leads to immediate and long term lowering of plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women. J Nutr. 2003;133(12):4135-4138. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14652361.
6.
Eussen S, Ueland P, Clarke R, et al. The association of betaine, homocysteine and related metabolites with cognitive function in Dutch elderly people. Br J Nutr. 2007;98(5):960-968. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17537289.
7.
Trepanowski J, Farney T, McCarthy C, Schilling B, Craig S, Bloomer R. The effects of chronic betaine supplementation on exercise performance, skeletal muscle oxygen saturation and associated biochemical parameters in resistance trained men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(12):3461-3471. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22080324.
8.
Cholewa J, Wyszczelska-Rokiel M, Glowacki R, et al. Effects of betaine on body composition, performance, and homocysteine thiolactone. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):39. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23967897.
9.
Hanje A, Fortune B, Song M, Hill D, McClain C. The use of selected nutrition supplements and complementary and alternative medicine in liver disease. Nutr Clin Pract. 2006;21(3):255-272. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16772543.
10.
Wang Z, Yao T, Pini M, Zhou Z, Fantuzzi G, Song Z. Betaine improved adipose tissue function in mice fed a high-fat diet: a mechanism for hepatoprotective effect of betaine in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010;298(5):G634-42. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20203061.
11.
Ejaz A, Martinez-Guino L, Goldfine A, et al. Dietary Betaine Supplementation Increases Fgf21 Levels to Improve Glucose Homeostasis and Reduce Hepatic Lipid Accumulation in Mice. Diabetes. 2016;65(4):902-912. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26858359.
12.
Day C, Kempson S. Betaine chemistry, roles, and potential use in liver disease. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016;1860(6):1098-1106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26850693.
13.
Hobbs D, Goulding M, Nguyen A, et al. Acute ingestion of beetroot bread increases endothelium-independent vasodilation and lowers diastolic blood pressure in healthy men: a randomized controlled trial. J Nutr. 2013;143(9):1399-1405. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23884387.
14.
Coles L, Clifton P. Effect of beetroot juice on lowering blood pressure in free-living, disease-free adults: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Nutr J. 2012;11:106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23231777.
15.
Rajaie S, Esmaillzadeh A. Dietary choline and betaine intakes and risk of cardiovascular diseases: review of epidemiological evidence. ARYA Atheroscler. 2011;7(2):78-86. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22577451.