Betaine anhydrous, also called trimethylglycine (TMG) is an interesting dietary supplement and a compound we make in the body. It's made from choline and various studies have noted this supplement may have some benefits. But who exactly does it benefit? Can betaine make you stronger? Is it heart healthy? what about depression and weight loss? In this review, I'll sort fact from fiction by showing you the proof for some of the biggest claims for betaine supplement. I'll also bust a few myths along the way. Is it right for you? Let's see.
Betaine Is Another Name For…
How Do You Pronounce It?
Say “Beet – ah-Eeen.” It was first isolated from sugar beets.
Don't Confuse With Betaine HCL
Where Is It Made?
Which Foods Have Betaine?
- Wheat bran: 1340 mg
- Wheat germ: 1240 mg
- Spinach: 600 mg
- Beets (canned): 296 mg
- Shrimp (canned): 218 mg
- Wheat bread: 200 mg
- Soy sauce: 35 mg
- Chicken liver: 11.43 mg
- Chicken noodle soup: 11.43 mg
- Mushrooms (raw): 9.52 mg
- Chicken (no skin): 5.09 mg
- Salmon: 1.87 mg
- Skim milk: 1.7 mg
It Lowers Homocysteine
This is one of the most well-known effects of this nutrient. Homocysteine is a chemical that makes your blood sticky and can damage blood vessels. As such, it may play a role in heart disease and even dementia. It turns out betaine TMG lowers homocysteine. It converts homocysteine to methionine. It does this by donating a methyl group. Think of methyl groups as cellular switches. By adding or subtracting methyl groups, things happen. In this case, homocysteine levels decline.
Other nutrients that can reduce homocysteine include folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. See the video below.
How To Lower Homocysteine Video
Here's more on reducing your homocysteine levels:
One of the side effects of niacin supplements is high doses may raise homocysteine levels. While TMG can reduce homocysteine, it's not the only nutrient. Watch the video on several other methods.
It Might Make You Stronger – Maybe…
Betaine is popular with weightlifters. Here is the proof.
In one study, researchers gave 2.4 grams of betaine or a placebo to 12 weight lifters for 6 weeks. After training for 6 weeks, researchers noted that those taking betaine:
- had thicker arms (but not thicker thighs)
- could do more reps and sets on the bench press (but not with the squat exercise)
- had a lower body fat
In another study, 13 men were given 2.5 grams of betaine or a placebo for 2 weeks each. The men performed about 6.5% better on the bench press compared to when they took a placebo.
Interestingly, if betaine really works, it might only be effective in seasoned athletes. It might not work in novices. In this study, researchers gave betaine (2 grams daily), creatine (20 grams a day), or both to men who had not regularly performed strength training exercises. After 10 days of supplementation, betaine did not raise muscle creatine levels. In addition, the combo of both supplements was no more effective at improving strength than creatine alone.
So if you're trying to decide betaine vs. creatine, go with creatine.
Betaine and Growth Hormone
In one investigation, researchers gave 12 men either 2.5 grams of TMG or a placebo each day for two weeks. Even though they worked out during the study, there was no difference in growth hormone levels with the betaine supplement.
Does Betaine Help Weight Loss?
In another study, 6000 mg of betaine did not cause weight loss more than a placebo when it was given to 42 overweight people for 12 weeks. This is similar to another study which found no weight loss when 9.9 grams (9900 mg) of betaine for 12 weeks. Strangely, in another investigation, 2.5 grams of betaine was found to be effective at reducing body fat when it was given to 33 people for 6 weeks.
So, how is it that 2.5 grams worked while 6 grams and 9.9 grams did not work? Based on these inconsistent findings betaine would not be my choice as an effective weight loss supplement.
See the Lipozene review
It May Help Depression
TMG breaks down homocysteine to the amino acid, methionine. Methionine is used to produce S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe), a compound and supplements repeatedly shown to help depression.
While researchers have yet to put TMG to the test to see if it helps depression and anxiety in people, one study has shown it boosts the antidepressant effects of SAMe in people with mild to moderate depression. In this study, 45 men and women with mild/moderate depression were given 800 mg SAMe alone or a combination of SAMe + betaine TMG for 90 days.
The dosage used in the combo treatment was 750 mg SAMe and 375 mg betaine. The combination of supplements was split into 3 equal dosages and taken 3 times a day.
While both treatments were effective, before and after the questionnaires showed the combination of both nutrients was significantly more effective than SAMe alone.
It Can Help Your Liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) happens when fat accumulates in the liver. It often has no obvious symptoms. It's a serious disorder because nonalcoholic fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver. If the trend continues, NAFLD is expected to be the leading cause of liver transplants in the coming years. In rats, betaine was shown to prevent cirrhosis of the liver. The human proof however is lacking.
In one year-long study, 10 people with Non-Alcoholic Steato Hepatitis (NASH) – the most severe form of NAFLD – were given 20 grams of TMG a day for a year. Researchers noted the amount of fat in the liver declined. In some people, liver enzymes declined by 50%.
Betaine TMG Side Effects
Supplements are considered safe for most people, but there are some things to keep in mind:
- Start with less than recommended for the first week
- Some have reported body odors, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Stop taking at least 2 weeks before surgery
- Speak to your doctor if you take any medications
- High doses (6 or more grams a day) may raise bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels
Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) is a metabolite of betaine (and choline). Some research links the TMAO molecule to heart disease. The way this seems to happen is complicated and involves both inflammation and microbiome produced TMAO. Those with heart and blood vessel disease should speak to their doctor before taking betaine supplements.
How To Raise Betaine Levels Naturally
This substance is produced in the liver from choline. Choline. So if you take a choline supplement this will help raise your natural TMG production. Alpha GDP choline has some of the highest levels.
While a choline deficiency is rare for the most part, foods containing choline include eggs, beef, soybeans, and chicken. Fruits and vegetables also have choline but at much lower levels.
What Betaine Supplements Are Best?
Remember, there are two different versions of this supplement.
- Betaine anhydrous (TMG) helps with homocysteine and liver health
- Betaine HCL helps with stomach acid and digestion
Your needs dictate which form is best for you.
Here are some quality made supplements:
So Does Betaine Work?
The research is strongest for lowering homocysteine levels although remember folate will also do this. The evidence for betaine helping fatty liver disease and depression is intriguing. I'm not convinced it helps weight loss or improves strength in bodybuilders.