What is Betaine?
Betaine is a methyl derivative of the amino acid glycine. It is also known as trimethylglycine (TMG), glycine betaine, lycine, and oxyneurine. This compound is found in high concentrations in many different plants and animals. Exceptional dietary sources include wheat bran, marine invertebrates, sugar beets and spinach. Betaine is also available in supplement form for those who prefer not to eat these types of foods.
Betaine plays a key role in many very important processes in the body. Betaine protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. Environmental stress, left unchecked, may lead to cell deformation, mutation, and possibly the onset of several different types of diseases including heart disease and cancer. Betaine is an organic osmolyte, which essentially means it has the ability to help cells during times of low water, high salinity, or extreme temperature. These are among the primary stresses that a cell could potentially endure in the human body, and betaine acts to protect against them all!
In addition to its protective role as an organic osmolyte, betaine also serves as a key component in the methionine cycle. Conversion of homocysteine to methionine can only occur through the transfer of methyl groups, and betaine acts as a key methyl donor in the process. So what does that really mean? Basically, inadequate betaine intake will result in reduced methionine levels and increased homocysteine levels in your body. Having an elevated homocysteine level is bad news for your health. Several studies have linked elevated homocysteine levels to diseases such as fatty liver, atherosclerosis, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. Betaine acts to prevent the elevated levels of homocysteine commonly associated with these serious health problems.
Betaine Side Effects
Betaine is safe, effective, and beneficial for the vast majority of the population when taken as directed. Most supplement companies advise taking 1g with food up to 6 times per day. Generally this will result in an increased sense of well-being, extra energy, and overall improvements to one's health. Taking more than the recommended dose is not a good idea as this could result in side effects such as nausea or dizziness, but this is unlikely as long as you follow the directions.
Betaine is an important compound that plays several key roles in the human body. It protects cells, proteins, and enzymes from stress in its role as an organic osmolyte. With the increasing environmental stresses associated with the modern age, protection is now more critical than ever. Betaine is also an important component in the methylation process converting homocysteine to methionine. Emerging studies are linking high homocysteine levels to just about every common disease from atherosclerosis to cancer, and low betaine levels could be to blame.
Considering betaine is most concentrated in unpopular foods such as beets and spinach, it is no surprise that most people are lacking this critical compound. The simple fact is that most people are not ingesting enough betaine to keep their homocysteine levels low enough for optimal health. Betaine supplements are affordable, and they help to bridge this gap by providing this crucial compound.