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
- Glycine betaine
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 may be helpful by helping support healthy homocysteine levels. [1,2]
Animal research suggests that betaine may help support liver health. [3,4,5,6,7,8]
In humans, betaine is essential to the maintenance of intestinal function and cell production. It may help support kidney health, and it may also function as an antioxidant. Betaine has also been suggested to support plasma methionine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) levels under certain conditions. [10,11]
As a nutritional aide, betaine anhydrous has been suggested to be lipotropic (i.e., fat-loss supporting) by promoting the oxidization of lipids. It has also been noted to increase appetite, improve digestive efficiency, and in animals it has been suggested to promote lean mass.
The action of betaine is potentiated in the presence of choline (its precursor), folic acid, and vitamins B-6 and B-12. 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. Consequently, athletes and members of the general population can derive benefit from betaine supplementation.
How much should be taken? Are there any side effects?
Dosage guidelines vary by age and medical fitness.
As a general dose, adults can supplement with two 3-gram doses daily, for a total of 6 grams per day.
All persons should follow label dosing recommendations.
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.
- Schwab, U., Törrönen, A., Toppinen, L., Alfthan, G., Saarinen, M., Aro, A., & Uusitupa, M. (2002). Betaine supplementation decreases plasma homocysteine concentrations but does not affect body weight, body composition, or resting energy expenditure in human subjects. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 76(5), 961-967.
- Gahl, W. A., Bernardini, I., Chen, S., Kurtz, D., & Horvath, K. (1988). The effect of oral betaine on vertebral body bone density in pyridoxine-non-responsive homocystinuria. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease, 11(3), 291-298.
- Hilt, G., & Tuzin, P. (1973). Clinical results using betaine citrate (Flacar) in fatty livers. Medizinische Monatsschrift, 27(7), 322.
- Nicrosini, F. (1972). Therapeutic activity of betaine aspartate. La Clinica Terapeutica, 61(3), 227.
- Cairella, M., & Volpari, B. (1972). Betaine aspartate in the therapy of liver diseases. La Clinica Terapeutica, 60(6), 513.
- Cachin, M., & Pergola, F. (1966). Betaine aspartate in the hepato-digestive domain. Semaine Thérapeutique, 42(8), 423.
- Barak, A. J., Beckenhauer, H. C., Junnila, M., & Tuma, D. J. (1993). Dietary Betaine Promotes Generation of Hepatic S‐Adenosylmethionine and Protects the Liver from Ethanol‐Induced Fatty Infiltration. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 17(3), 552-555.
- Murakami, T., Nagamura, Y., & Hirano, K. (1998). The recovering effect of betaine on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 44(2), 249-255.
- Chambers, S. T. (1995). Betaines: their significance for bacteria and the renal tract. Clinical Science, 88(1), 25-27.
- Selhub, J. (1999). Homocysteine metabolism. Annual Review of Nutrition, 19(1), 217-246.
- Barak, A. J., & Tuma, D. J. (1983). Betaine, metabolic by-product or vital methylating agent? Life Sciences, 32(7), 771-774.