Naturally found in the metabolism of oxidation of choline
Betaine is a choline derivative important for its role in the donation of methyl groups used in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine and for it's folate sparing effect. In the body, Betaine donates one of its methyl groups to cellular DNA, which helps DNA to maintain its normal functioning. When it has three methyl groups attached to each molecule of glycine it is called "trimethylglycine". When in a TMG methyl group it donates a molecule of homocysteine, which is converted first to methionine, then to S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe).
Closely related to choline, the difference is choline (tetramethylglycine) has four methyl groups attached to it. When choline donates one of these groups to another molecule, it becomes betaine (trimethylglycine). If betaine donates one of its methyl groups, then it becomes dimethylglycine. Betaine plays a role in the manufacture of carnitine.
Betaine plays a role in reducing blood levels of homocysteine, a toxic breakdown product of amino-acid metabolism that is believed to promote atherosclerosis and osteoporosis. While the main nutrients involved in controlling homocysteine levels are folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, betaine may be helpful in some people whose elevated homocysteine levels did not improve with these other nutrients. Betaine has been shown to be helpful in certain rare genetic disorders involving cysteine metabolism.4 5 6 7 8 However, in normal situations or with supplementation of the other methyl donors, betaine is not likely to produce any lowering effect on homocysteine levels.9 10 Its primary use as a nutritional supplement is in supporting proper liver function.
Betaine is a “lipotropic factor”, because it helps the liver process fats (lipids). In animal studies, betaine supplementation has been shown to protect against chemical damage to the liver. The first stage of liver damage that results from drinking alcohol is the accumulation of fat in the liver (alcohol-induced fatty liver disease). Betaine, because of its lipotropic effects, has been shown to produce significant improvements in this condition in several human clinical studies.15 16 Betaine has been studied in clinical trials conducted in Germany, Italy, and France in the treatment of alcohol-related liver disease.17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Some success was noted in these studies, but the popularity of betaine for alcohol-related liver disease has been supplanted by SAMe and milk thistle extract.
It functions closely with choline, folic acid, vitamin B12, and a form of the amino acidmethionine known as SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). All of these compounds function as “methyl donors.” They carry and donate methyl molecules to facilitate necessary chemical processes. The donation of methyl groups by betaine is important to proper liver function, cellular replication, and detoxification reactions. Betaine also plays a role in the manufacture of carnitine and serves to protect the kidneys from damage.
History: Methylation is a natural process of transfer of methyl groups (-CH3) between different compounds. This can serve to activate, recycle, detoxify and/or protect the affected molecules. Research shows that decreased methylation is involved in many health conditions, including diseases of the cardiovascular system, brain and liver, as well as cancer. Methylation is a key biochemical step ocurring a billion times a second. A coating of methyl groups on DNA protects against aging, oxidation and genetic damage.
Trimethylglycine (TMG) is an excellent source of methyl groups and is found in good quantities in broccoli and beets. TMG (Trimethyl glycine) is also known as anhydrous betaine, glycine betaine, or oxyneurine. It is a white crystalline powder with a naturally sweet taste and it disolves readily under the tongue for sublingual absorption, or for those who prefer, in water or other drinks.
Technicals: 2-(Trimethylammonio)ethanoic acid, hydroxide, inner salt, donates a methyl group to homocysteine to produce Dimethylglycine and Methionine, resulting in a reduction of homocysteine levels.
Sources: Food sources include beets liver, eggs, fish, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and meats, all contain small amounts of it, mostly destroyed during cooking or processing of foods.
Synergist: Vitamin B6, folic acid and Vitamin B12 to augment the formation of SAMe
Caution: It is sometimes confused with betaine hydrochloride, which is a stomach acidifier not this welltrient.
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