What is betaine?
Betaine is also called as trimethylglycine or betaine anhydrous. Choline and glycine betaine are the two different forms of betaine. Betaine produces carnitine, which promotes liver function and cellular reproduction as well as metabolism of the amino acid homocysteine. Because of betaine's effectiveness, the FDA has approved betaine supplements for the treatment of high homocysteine levels.
Betaine was first found in beets. Betaine got its name after being discovered in beets. It is usually an active component in a variety of products with betaine HCl as the most popular. It contains a vitamin, betaine, hydrochloric acid, and may also include pepsin.
Betaine chemically consists of amino acid glycine, which has three methyl groups attached to it. In the body, betaine can be naturally produced from choline and in certain foods such as quinoa and beets. Many biochemical processes depend on methylation, and betaine is found to function as a methyl donor. One example is the homocysteine amino acid to which a methyl group is added from betaine to form methionine. In this way, betaine reduces homocysteine concentrations and increases the growth of muscle by its protein synthesis.
Betaine is a nonessential nutrient. It is obtained from various plant sources such as whole wheat, beets, broccoli, and spinach. It is also manufactured by the body, and its main role is to function as a methyl group, which is optimal for cellular replication, detoxification, and liver function. Betaine has also shown potential when it comes to fighting heart diseases, promoting muscle gain, losing fat, and helping in muscle protein synthesis. It has been studied for its effect on preventing heart diseases, but recently, it has been used in products, especially in energy supplements such as protein powder, which that can enhance the performance and composition of the body.
Betaine HCl is a form of chloride-salt supplement that serves as a digestive aid. It helps in the absorption of vitamin B12, iron, calcium, and proteins. It prevents bacteria and fungi from flourishing in the gut and also protects the stomach from pathogens that are orally ingested.
Betaine HCl is a crystalline alcohol, which is derived from beets. It is generally used to increase the acid content in the stomach. In health stores, it is available in the form of a pill. However, evidence about its use to treat hypochlorhydria is still lacking. Still, the use of betaine for other health conditions is believed by many health professionals.
It is an organic compound. People suffering from stomach disorders or a lack of stomach acid production may benefit from betaine HCl. People with a lack of stomach acid are more prone to bacterial and intestinal infections, wherein the presence of bad microorganisms also increases. Betaine HCl helps in the breakdown of fat and protein, and thus, helps in the detoxification process. It also helps the food to get absorbed and helps in the assimilation of calcium, iron, proteins and vitamin B12.
Betaine HCl in the digestive tract enters into the enterocytes. Betaine here is extracted and metabolized in the liver as these enterocytes circulate through the liver. Inside the alkaline environment of the small intestine, betaine HCl is converted into betaine.
The best sources of betaine are:
- Wheat bran
- Rye grain
- Amaranth grain
- Kamut wheat grain
- Sweet potato
- Turkey breast
- Bulgar grain
Many people can get the best benefits by getting 650 mg to 2,000 mg of betaine per day. Until now, the recommended daily intake has not yet been established.
1. Relieves Hypochlorhydria
The low production of stomach acid or less secretion of hydrochloric acid is called as hypochlorhydria. It has a negative impact on the digestion process. Hence, the bacteria that would normally be killed by the acid in the gut survive. In conventional medicine, betaine hydrochloride has been successfully used to treat this condition.
If the food in the digestive system is not properly digested, then it affects the absorption of the nutrients and also causes hormonal disruption. People who frequently experience constipation and bloating or frequent belching after eating food are recommended to take betaine HCl. Dr. Robert J. Hedaya has recommended taking about 600 mg of betaine in the middle of a meal to avoid burning the empty stomach lining.
3. Helps with Ulcers
Betaine may be used to help treat ulcers. It is based on the theory which states that having less stomach acid affects the digestion since it cannot completely digest proteins leading to the development of ulcer and heartburn. Hence, many naturopathic physicians believe that betaine HCl is very helpful in treating ulcers, although it has been noted that there is still no scientific evidence to support such claims.
4. Heart Disease
Betaine tends to reduce the homocysteine levels that can cause heart attack and stroke. Betaine is helpful in treating heart problems when it is taken along with folic acid, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Higher homocysteine levels tend to cause atherosclerosis. However, before taking betaine supplements, consult your doctor since betaine also tends to increase the level of cholesterol in the body.
High homocysteine levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Studies have shown that betaine supplements can reduce this risk. Betaine also lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke by fighting against the hardened and blocked arteries. It also lowers the risk of other forms of heart diseases and cardiac arrest.
5. Improves Muscle Mass
Studies have shown that betaine supplements can help increase muscle mass and muscle strength. Although several studies have been conducted both on animals and humans, the results always vary. Some studies have shown that betaine supplementation improved muscle endurance, whereas, in some studies, there have been no positive results. Moreover, to further reach to a conclusion, athletes were given betaine supplementation for six weeks and positive results were obtained. It was concluded that betaine supplements are capable of providing muscle power, muscle growth, and increased stamina.
6. Fat Loss
Studies have shown that betaine could help quicken the process of burning fat without breaking down muscle tissues. There was a study conducted on pigs, which were given betaine supplementation. They lost more fat and their ability to metabolize proteins was improved. However, it was found that the effects of betaine were more apparent when the subjects' diet was low in calories. More research is needed to see whether the result could be the same if the diet is high in calories.
7. Liver Function and Detoxification
Due to alcohol abuse, obesity, and diabetes, fat could accumulate in the liver to a dangerous level. Betaine shows the ability to break down and remove these fats, so that they can help the liver to detoxify. Moreover, betaine protects the body from the damage of toxin exposure by helping the liver to remove these toxins and chemicals. Hepatotoxins that enter the body through medications, pesticides, and herbicides can damage the liver. Betaine has been found to protect the liver against the effects of hepatotoxins.
Many pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables. They contain multiple toxins. Research is still ongoing about their long-term negative effect. Betaine may be helpful in processing these toxins and removing them out of the body.
8. Relieves Aches and Pain
Studies have revealed that betaine may help improve muscle pain and aches. The study was done in horses, where they were given betaine supplements. It was found that after training or exercise, the levels of lactate acid was reduced. For people who regularly undergo vigorous exercises, betaine could be beneficial. Moreover, people who experience muscle pain and joint tissue damage could benefit from betaine.
9. Protects the Body from Damage Due to Alcoholism
Alcohol causes an accumulation of excess fat in the liver, which can eventually damage the liver. Betaine is found to treat this condition since it has a lipotropic effect. It can help eliminate the fat, and thus, heal fatty liver disease.
It is a metabolic disorder caused by high levels of homocysteine. Homocystinuria may also cause osteoporosis and heart disease. Betaine is quite helpful when it comes to reducing the levels of homocysteine.
11. Shields Internal Organs
Some studies have shown that betaine is an important amino acid for the prevention of chronic diseases. It also protects the internal organs and enhances their performance. Moreover, vascular risk factors are known to improve with betaine use.
Uses of Betaine
- Used to treat various health conditions such as liver diseases due to fat deposits, diabetes, alcohol abuse, or obesity.
- Used for dry mouth when it is combined in toothpaste.
- People who have a poor diet, generalized stress, and dehydration for a longer time find benefit from betaine.
- It is considered as a powerful digestive aid. In premenopausal women and in the elderly, betaine has been found to support digestion.
- Balances homocysteine levels.
- Promotes DNA sequencing and polymerase chain reaction. It prevents the development of secondary structures in DNA molecules. It also prevents the conditions associated with it.
- Helps treat depression.
- People with a lack of stomach acid or enzyme deficiency are usually advised to take betaine since it helps in digesting fats and proteins. As people age, the level of enzymes in the body also slowly diminishes. Moreover, the time taken for the nutrients to get absorbed in the body also increases. Since there is a lack of nutrients, it can lead to various health conditions such as gastritis, asthma, Candida infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and atherosclerosis. The body is also prone to parasitic and bacterial infections. People with acne, yeast infections, gallstones, and certain allergies also do not produce enough amount of gastric acid. Hence, they may benefit from betaine supplements. Betaine also protects the stomach from harmful bacteria and maintains the pH in the digestive tract.
- With age, the ability of the person to secrete digestive enzymes also decreases. This leads to low levels of HCl and low enzymatic activity. The digestion becomes sluggish, nutrients are poorly absorbed, and the body is not able to eliminate waste. The waste remains lodged in the system, which can cause an overload of toxins and tissue irritation. People facing these problems have found help by taking betaine HCl before meals.
- Some research studies have proven that betaine can help in developing a positive mood, insulin signaling, and joint recovery. Muscle endurance can also be increased with the help of betaine. Also, through reduced cortisol training, it can increase muscle and anabolic gain through protein synthesis. It also increases the level of growth hormones after training. In one study, it was found that athletic strength was increased by 25 percent when athletes were supplemented with betaine.
Betaine HCl could also help with the following conditions:
- Stomach ulcer
- Thyroid function
- Food sensitivities
- Anemia due to iron deficiency
- Stomach disorders
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Indigestion and heartburn
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Yeast infections
- Inner ear infection
Do not take betaine HCl without the approval of the doctor since the supplement may make the condition worse. Although it is a safe supplement, when it is taken in higher doses, some side effects arise, which may include high cholesterol levels, kidney disease, obesity, stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea.
In one study, it was noted that participants who took betaine had fewer levels of homocysteine in their plasma. Also, in another study, it was revealed that betaine that is taken on higher doses also reduced the levels of homocysteine. Betaine is also beneficial for heart health.