Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, is an amino acid known for its positive impacts on preventing heart disease and improving exercise performance and body composition. Betaine is created by choline in combination with the amino acid glycine. Some of the best sources of betain include grains, broccoli, beats, spinach and shell fish.
Betaine has been shown to have potential benefits for fighting heart disease, improving body composition, and helping promote muscle gain and fat loss because of its ability to promote protein synthesis in the body. Betaine aids in liver function, detoxification and cellular functioning, but its most crucial role is to help the body process fats (references 5, 6, 7). It’s also used to convert homocysteine in the blood to methionine. This is helpful in the prevention of plaque buildup in the arteries (references 1, 2).
One study found that higher betaine intake protects against lung cancer by minimizing the adverse effects of smoking. A second suggests that betaine intake may lower the risk of breast cancer (references 3, 4).
A human study found that ingestion of a betaine-guanidinoacetate combination leads to an improved sense of well-being, less fatigue, and greater general strength and endurance during recovery. Whenever motor unit activity or residual power remained in a muscle, betaine-guanidinoacetate led to a substantial increase. A patent was granted for this combination, or betaine alone, for the treatment of diseased and weak muscle tissues (reference 8, 9). Betaine may also improve athletic performance, because its addition to a carbohydrate-electrolyte fluid-replacement beverage results in improved mean sprint time to exhaustion and evidence of enhanced anaerobic and aerobic metabolism (references 10, 11).
Most side effects from betaine are mild; these include diarrhea, stomach upset, and nausea. Betaine can also raise cholesterol levels. People who are overweight, have heart disease, or are at risk for heart disease, should monitor their levels closely. In people with kidney disease, betaine may interfere with drugs taken to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.
Choline is a “precursor” to betaine, and therefore must be present for betaine to be synthesized in the body. Betaine is also usually taken with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
A set recommended dosage for betaine is currently undetermined. However, to help with digestion, there are many betaine supplements available on the market ranging in recommended dosages between 650–2500 milligrams. People who are looking to benefit from betaine in regards to exercise performance, improving body composition, or relieving body aches and pains may take between 1500–2000 milligrams.
3. Ying J, Rahbar MH, Hallman DM et al. Associations between dietary intake of choline and betaine and lung cancer risk. PLoS One. 2013; 8(2):e54561.
4. Zhang CX, Pan MX, Li B, et al. Choline and betaine intake is inversely associated with breast cancer risk: a two-stage case-control study in China. Cancer Sci. 2013; 104(2):250-258.
5. Angulo P, Lindor KD. Treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver: present and emerging therapies. Semin Liver Dis. 2001;21(1):81-88.
6. Hanje AJ, 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 Jun;21(3):255-272. Review.
7. Song Z, Zhou Z, Deaciuc I, Chen T, McClain CJ. Inhibition of adiponectin production by homocysteine: a potential mechanism for alcoholic liver disease. Hepatology. 2008;47(3):867-879.
8. Borsook ME, Billig HK, Golseth JG. Betaine and glycocamine in the treatment of disability resulting from acute anterior poliomyelitis. Ann West Med Surg 1952;6:423–7.
9. Borsook H, Borsook ME, inventors; California Institute Research Foundation, assignee. Glycocyamine and methylating agent in vivo creatine producing composition. US patent 2,761,807. September 4, 1956.
10. Roti MW, Hatch HL, Sutherland JW, et al. Homocysteine, lipid and glucose responses to betaine supplementation during running in the heat. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35:S271(abstr).
11. Armstrong LE, Roti MW, Hatch HL, et al. Rehydration with fluids containing betaine: running performance and metabolism in a 31 C environment. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2003;35:S311(abstr).