What Is Betaine?
Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine or betaine anhydrous, is an amino acid derivative. Before we get into the benefits, let's first take a closer look at this dietary supplement.
More specifically, betaine is the amino acid glycine attached to three methyl groups.
Betaine is naturally occurring in the human body but also can be found in food sources such as beets, broccoli, spinach, seafood and whole grains. It was first originally discovered in sugar beets where it got its name from.
How does it work?
One of betaine's important functions in the body is acting as a methyl donor, where it donates a methyl group to homocysteine which then converts into methionine to ultimately decrease homocysteine levels. Due to betaine's ability to reduce blood homocysteine levels, a risk factor for heart disease, it is commonly referred to for its cardioprotective effects (1).
It can also increase levels of S-Adenosyl Methionine (SAMe) or folate which are nutrients that are also involved in methylation. This means that betaine has the ability to promote methylation in the entire body.
Impaired methylation is associated with health problems including autoimmune diseases (2).
As you can see, it's kind of a big deal.
Betaine has many other functions as well as it involves many systems of the body including the digestive system, cardiovascular system, muscular system, and more.
Betaine has been shown to have a wide range of benefits and potential uses in the body and can be used for many health conditions and concerns including heart health, digestive health, muscle mass, muscle aches, inflammation, fat loss, skin health, and detoxification.
Betaine is also used to make Betaine Hydrochloride, also commonly listed as betaine Hcl on supplements, an acidic version of betaine that works in the same way as hydrochloric acid (HCl) in your stomach.
When taken before a meal, Betaine Hcl can help to support optimal stomach acidity for improved protein digestion and fat digestion in the digestive tract but also improved digestive function and reduced unwanted symptoms like gas and bloating.
It is particularly important for protein digestion, helping to break down animal-based foods which require adequate levels of stomach acid to be broken down properly into amino acids.
Betaine is commonly combined in supplement formulas with digestive enzymes such as the protease or pepsin enzyme for improved protein digestion.
Low levels of stomach acid increase the risk of issues such as bacterial overgrowth, nutrient deficiencies, digestive dysfunction, malabsorption, anemia, and osteoporosis.
This is commonly due to acid-suppressing drugs especially chronic use of antacids and proton pump inhibitors but also factors such as poor diet, high stress, and gall bladder removal. Declining stomach acid levels also occur with age.
A healthy stomach will have a ph of 1.5 to 3.5 during meals which is highly acidic in order to properly break down your food and support the rest of the digestive process.
Supplementing with betaine can help to restore stomach acid levels however it is recommended to do so with a skilled healthcare provider as in certain cases this could make things worse by potentially irritating the stomach lining (3)(4).
Due to its role in methylation and its ability to reduce levels of homocysteine, betaine can in turn help to reduce heart disease risk. High homocysteine levels are a risk factor for heart problems and is a biomarker of cardiovascular complications. Fortunately, betaine has been shown to lower homocysteine in the blood. A study showed that 4 grams of betaine supplementation per day lowered plasma homocysteine in just 6 weeks of use (5). This dietary supplement may be a promising agent to help protect against the risk of cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks.
Side effectsThere are not many adverse effects that have been reported with betaine use however if you are at risk for or are suffering from heart problems or kidney disease, betaine is not recommended. In addition, if you are taking medications for liver disease, heart disease or kidney problems consult your health care practitioner before supplementing.
Betaine could potentially raise cholesterol levels thus it is important to verify with your doctor before supplementing if you are overweight or have cardiovascular problems. Always speak with your practitioner before supplementing if you have any medical condition.
Mild adverse reactions that may occur include nausea, stomach upset, and diarrhea.
The dosage for betaine will depend on what you are seeking from it.
Typical doses for digestion start at 500mg however for fatty liver, exercise performance and homocysteine reduction, higher doses are more effective in the range of 2,500-6,000mg per day (10). If you are unsure of the dosing appropriate for you always consult with your doctor.
Betaine comes as a powder or capsule and is commonly taken alongside folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 to support optimal absorption.
Best betaine supplements
HCl secretion in the stomach does several positive things. It assists protein digestion by activating pepsinogen to pepsin, it renders the stomach sterile against ingested pathogens, it inhibits undesirable overgrowth in the small intestine, and it encourages the flow of bile and pancreatic enzymes. Hydrochloric acid also facilitates the absorption of a number of nutrients, including folate, vitamin B12, ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, iron, and some forms of calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Thorne's Betaine HCl & Pepsin comes from a porcine source.
- for optimal stomach acidity
- promotes protein breakdown and absorption
- benefits individuals with occasional indigestion
- non-plant sourced
NOW Betaine Hydrochloride with Protease is formulated for maximum potency. It combines Betaine Hydrochloride with Protease that is standardized for consistent and reliable results. This blend is encapsulated for quick delivery and is a great complement to any dietary regime.
- Helps digest proteins
- Helps to support liver function and digestion
- WIth Protease