Best betaine supplements

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. 

Methylation is an important process that occurs in every single cell of the body and affects the stress response, antioxidant production, inflammation, DNA repair, immune response, and more.

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.



Digestive Health

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)

Heart Health

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.

Athletic performance

Betaine may be a potential performance-enhancing supplement, as there is some research showing chronic betaine supplementation increased power, force and other performance measures (6)(7).

It has also been shown to increase muscle mass while increasing fat loss in both animal and human studies (8)(9).


Side effects

There 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.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also cautioned against taking betaine until further studies are done to confirm it is safe for these populations.

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