What is Betaine?
Betaine is a nitrogen containing compound related to choline. It is obtained from beta vulgaris, the common beet. Betaine is also found in large doses in beets, grains, shellfish, broccoli, spinach, seafood, corn and wine. It is also known as trimethyglycine (TMG).
Betaine, as such is a Cofactor for various methylation reactions i.e. it aids up the process of methylation of a particular compound or substrate. It works with choline, vitamin B12, and S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) etc.
Betaine is regarded as a ‘methyl donor’ and is widely important in many chemical and biological processes of the body be it liver function, cellular reproduction, prevention of heart or liver disease etc.
Health benefits of Betaine
As a digestive aid - Betaine is used to bolster the stomach acid production in patients having the problem of insufficient stomach acid production. So it is used for treating achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria. Betaine is available in the form of hydrochloride. It is used as a digestive aid to treat people suffering from achlorhydria or hypochlorhydria.
It enhances the digestive process when taken with meals by increasing the stomach acid production but one should be careful and must take it under medical supervision to avoid over-dosing. Excessive dose can cause irritation on the stomach wall. When one ages, the digestive enzymes tend to weaken up and also one faces poor digestion problem so Betaine supplementation proves useful.
BetaineHCL helps to breakdown the fats or proteins of food that we eat into smaller molecules and thereby help in metabolism and assimilation in the body.
Betaine in weight-loss - Because Betaine has a role in metabolism in body, it also benefits weight loss. It is an osmolyte and a methyl donor and hence preserves muscle tissue and gives a perfect muscle tone to the body. It also creates creatine and other muscle building compounds. It maintains cell hydration and volume thereby balances muscle tissues.
Miscellaneous benefits of Betaine
- Betaine is used to replenish the level of methionine amino acid in the production of compound like hormone epinephrine or adrenaline.
- Anhydrous form of Betaine is widely used in fields of cosmetics, dietary human, animal poultry and aquatic breeding.
- BetaineHCL assists in the general detoxification process in our body.
- BetaineHCL is also used in various other conditions such as asthma, acne, eczema, hay fever, dermatitis, gallstones, anemia, rhinitis, ear-infection, indigestion or heartburn, arteriosclerosis and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Probable uses of Betaine
As a supplement - It has been reported that Betaine acts with the intermediate SAMe and causes remethylation of homocysteine to form methionine thereby decreasing the plasma levels of homocysteine. Hence supplementation of Betaine is under research in reducing the homocysteine levels so as to reduce the risk of heart disease and to treat homocystinuria. However, there is still insufficient evidence for recommending Betaine supplementation for Coronary Heart Disease patients.
For treating rheumatoid arthritis - rheumatoid arthritis is also related to low acid levels and hence Betaine can be used to treat them although no strong evidence is yet proved to support this fact.
Adverse-effect - Betaine can cause gastrointestinal irritation. It can cause stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea. It can also cause headache, vomiting, confusion, drowsiness, seizures, or loss of consciousness.
Precautions while using Betaine
If you are suffering from peptic ulcer then you must avoid it. As such no reports of harm are obtained if Betaine is consumed by pregnant or breast-feeding women but there is insufficient evidence on it.
Interactions - No harmful interactions have been reported.
Dose - Betaine supplementation is done in the form of tablets or capsules with a dose of 250-500 mg in each dose.
Betaine is a product of choline as such but its use is making it valuable now. It is still under research for various other sectors of benefits. One tip of advice is you must always ask your medical practitioner if you are going to use Betaine or BetaineHCL for any reason.