Clayton's Health Facts: Betaine Anhydrous.

Clayton South, SPN (ISSA), is a recognized expert in the bodybuilding / fitness industry with over 150 bodybuilding, fitness and nutrition publications to his credit.
What is it and where does it come from?

Betaine Anhydrous ((CH3)3NCH2COO) is a vitamin derived from choline. Dietary sources of Betaine Anhydrous include spinach, cereal grains, seafood, wine and sugar beets. It has a molecular weight of 117.15.

Betaine Anhydrous is also known by the following names:

  • Trimethylglycine (TMG)
  • Methanaminium1-carboxy-N,N,N-trimethyl-, inner salt
  • 2-(Trimethylammonio) ethanoic acid
  • hydroxide, inner salt
  • (Carboxymethyl) trimethylammonium hydroxide inner salt
  • Trimethylammonioacetate
  • Glycine
  • Glycine Betaine
  • Trimethylbetaine
  • Trimethylglycocoll
  • Abromine
  • Glycylbetaine
  • Oxyneurine.
What does it do and what scientific studies give evidence to support this?

Betaine Anhydrous is a versatile vitamin that is used by the body for a wide variety of physiological purposes.

Betaine's chief purpose in the body is the lowering of homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is a potentially toxic substance that results from meat digestion, and is thought to contribute to the onset of arthrosclerosis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular thrombosis, skeletal abnormalities and ocular deformities. By lowering or controlling homocystine levels, betaine reduces ones risk for these conditions.1 Betaine Anhydrous is also administered to persons with homocystinuria (an inherited metabolic amino acid disorder that leads to an abundance of homocysteine in the blood) to help treat their condition.2

Betaine has shown promise as a treatment for alcohol-induced fatty liver disease3,4,5,6, and animal research has demonstrated that Betaine exerts protective effects on the liver.7,8

In humans, betaine is essential to the maintenance of intestinal function and cell production, it can protect the kidneys from damage9, and it serves to protect DNA and DNA formation. Betaine has also been shown to increase low plasma methionine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) levels under certain conditions 10,11

As a nutritional aide, betaine anhydrous has been shown to be lipotropic - i.e. fat loss causing - by promoting the oxidization of lipids. It has also been noted to increase appetite, improve digestive efficiency, and in animals it has been shown to promote lean mass and reproductive abilities.

The action of betaine is potentiated in the presence of choline (its precursor), folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12. In some circumstances, betaine anhydrous can be used as a substitute for methionine and choline chloride.

Who needs it and what are some symptoms of deficiency?

Betaine Anhydrous is orally supplemented in the form of a powder. All persons who are free of medical complication and in good health can benefit from incorporating betaine or betaine containing products into their lifestyle and overall health management strategy.

In times of stress, endogenous betaine levels may be insufficient to support optimal immune system function. Under these conditions the body becomes susceptible to injury, illness and disease. Consequently, athletes and members of the general population can derive benefit from betaine supplementation.

Symptoms of deficiency can include compromised gastrointestinal and liver function, impaired cell production, decreased immunity, and elevated or unstable homocystine levels.

How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?

Dosage guidelines vary by age and medical fitness.

As a general dose, children and adults can supplement with two 3gm doses daily, for a total of 6gm per day. Children less than three years of age should begin with a dosage of 100mg per kilogram of bodyweight, per day.

All persons should follow label dosing recommendations.

Persons with hyperhomocysteinemia can supplement at a dosage between 250 mg-1000mg a day. To assess tolerance, it is recommended that a lower dose is first taken, with incremental increases until the optimum levels have been determined.1000mg is the theoretical upper limit for daily administration.

Possible side effects can include diarrhea, stomach upset (gastrointestinal irritation) and nausea. This substance is not known to interact with medications, but users should consult with a physician prior to its use.

Administration should be immediately discontinued if itching, chest tightness, rashes, trouble breathing or swelling of the face or hands occur.

Diabetics should not supplement with betaine anhydrous or products containing this ingredient, and pregnant or nursing women should consult a physician prior to betaine anhydrous administration.


1. Schwab U, Torronen A, Toppinen L, Alfthan G, Saarinen M, Aro A, Uusitupa M. Betaine supplementation decreases plasma homocysteine concentrations but does not affect body weight, body composition, or resting energy expenditure in human subjects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;76(5):961-7.

2. Gahl WA, Bernardini I, Chen S, et al. The effect of oral betaine on vertebral body bone density in pyridoxine-non-responsive homocystinuria. J Inherit Metab Dis 1988;11:291-8.

3. Hilt G, Tuzin P. Clinical results using betaine citrate (Flacar) in fatty livers. Med Monatsschr 1973;27:322-5 [in German].

4. Nicrosini F. Therapeutic activity of betaine aspartate. Clin Ter 1972;15;61:227-36 [in Italian].

5.Cairella M, Volpari B. Betaine aspartate in the therapy of liver diseases. Clin Ter 1972;60:513-34 [in Italian].

6. Cachin M, Pergola F. Betaine aspartate in the hepato-digestive domain. Sem Ther 1966;42:423-4 [in French].

7. Barak AJ, Beckenhauer HC, Matti J, Tuma DJ. Dietary betaine promotes generation of hepatic S-adenosylmethioine and protects the liver from ethanol-induced fatty infiltration. Alcohol Clin Exp Res 1993;17:552-5.

8. Murakami T, Nagamura Y, Hirano K. The recovering effect of betaine on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 1998;44:249-55.

9. Chambers ST. Betaines: their significance for bacteria and the renal tract. Clin Sci 1995;88:25-7 [review].

10. Selhub J. Homocysteine metabolism. Annu Rev Nutr 1999;19:217-46 [review].

11. Barak AJ, Tuma DJ. Betaine, metabolic by-product or vital methylating agent? Life Sci 1983;32:771-4 [review].