Betaine (trimethylglycine) functions very closely with choline,
folic acid, vitamin B12, and a form of the
amino acid methionine known as
2 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 very 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.3 Betaine is closely related to choline. The difference is that 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.
Where is it found?
Dietary sources of betaine include fish, beets, and legumes. Betaine is most widely available as betaine hydrochloride (betaine-HCl), but that form is
used primarily as a source of hydrochloric acid for people with hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid). The forms used
specifically to provide betaine are betaine citrate and betaine aspartate. These forms have
also been used to improve liver function.
Betaine has been used in
connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual
health concern for complete information):
Who is likely to be deficient?
Betaine is not an essential nutrient, and thus no deficiency state exists.
How much is usually taken?
For people with alcohol-induced fatty liver, the recommended amount for betaine citrate or
betaine aspartate supplementation is 1,000 to 2,000 mg three times daily. Lower amounts are
often used as nutritional support for general liver health, although use of betaine in this
manner has not undergone clinical research.
Are there any side effects or interactions?
No side effects with betaine at recommended levels have been noted.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions
1. Selhub J. Homocysteine metabolism. Annu Rev Nutr
2. Barak AJ, Tuma DJ. Betaine, metabolic by-product or vital methylating
agent? Life Sci 1983;32:771-4 [review].
3. Chambers ST. Betaines: their significance for bacteria and the renal
tract. Clin Sci 1995;88:25-7 [review].