What is betaine?

Betaine is an amino acid-like substance, a nonessential nutrient, which can be produced in your body from the vitamin choline, so you do not need to get it from foods in order to be healthy [1].

Other names for betaine: glycine betaine, trimethylglycine, lycine, oxyneurine [1].

Betaine Functions in the Human Body

Betaine [1,3]:

  • Protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress, such as dehydration, high salinity or extreme temperature
  • Is a donor of methyl (CH3) groups; it is involved in the synthesis of adrenaline, carnitine, creatine and methionine, among other

Foods High in Betaine

  • PLANT FOODS: wheat germ and bran, beets, sweet potatoes, barley, broccoli, spinach [2,3]
  • Foods high in choline (meat, fish, legumes) are also a good source of betaine.

Betaine Supplements

  • Oral betaine anhydrous supplements are available without prescription (over-the-counter).
  • Oral betaine hydrochloride as a source of hydrochloric acid for individuals with hypochlorhydria (low gastric acid) [3].

Betaine Health Benefits

Betaine anhydrous supplements are EFFECTIVE in the prevention or treatment of homocystinuria (high homocystine levels in certain hereditary metabolic disorders) [4]; for this use it is approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [5].

Betaine hydrochloride is LIKELY EFFECTIVE in the prevention of mortality in infants with a hereditary metabolic disorder methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) deficiency [7,8].

Betaine anhydrous used in a toothpaste is POSSIBLY EFFECTIVE in reducing dry mouth [4] and lowering blood levels of homocysteine (hyperhomocysteinemia) [4]

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE [4] about the effectiveness of betaine anhydrous in the prevention or treatment of acid reflux, colorectal adenomas, coronary heart disease, hepatitis C, nonalcoholic fatty liver, Rett syndrome or sunburns (as a cream) or in increasing exercise performance [3,6] or promoting weight loss.

Betaine anhydrous is POSSIBLY INEFFECTIVE in the treatment of the hereditary disorder Angelman syndrome [4].

Betaine Safety: Side Effects, Toxicity

Oral betaine anhydrous supplements in daily doses up to 15 g/day are LIKELY SAFE for most adults and children [3,4].

Side effects in high doses may include nausea, stomach upset and diarrhea. Betaine can increase blood levels of total and LDL cholesterol in some people [4].

During pregnancy. Not enough studies about the use of betaine supplements during pregnancy and breastfeeding have been done, so women should avoid them during these periods.

  1. Betaine  PubChem
  2. List of foods high in betaine  US Department of Agriculture
  3. Craig SAS, 2004, Betaine in human nutrition  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  4. Betaine anhydrous uses, side effects  WebMD
  5. Cystadane®  US Food and Drug Administration
  6. Lee EC et al, 2010, Ergogenic effects of betaine supplementation on strength and power performance  PubMed
  7. Huemer M et al, 2015, Newborn screening for homocystinurias and methylation disorders: systematic review and proposed guidelines  PubMed
  8. Diekman EF et al, 2014, Survival and psychomotor development with early betaine treatment in patients with severe methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency  PubMed

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