Exploring the Benefits of Betaine for Digestion and Overall Health

by Stacy Facko

Betaine is found in various food sources and plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular function and overall health. Betaine has similar and additional benefits to choline, and digestive enzymes, and is approved by the FDA to treat homocysteine build-up. This article will explore the sources of betaine, as well as its benefits for digestion, immune function, liver and heart health.

What is Betaine?

Betaine also known as trimethylglycine, is a non-esential amino acid, present in animals, plants, and microorganisms. Glycine, a key component for protein construction, is also crucial for gene expression and various metabolic pathways, including glutathione synthesis and the regulation of one-carbon metabolism. Because it has a hydrogen side chain, it can integrate into environments that are both hydrophilic and hydrophobic. 

Although it is often classified as a non-essential amino acid due to its ability to be synthesized internally to some extent, there is evidence to suggest that glycine should be considered a conditionally essential amino acid. It can be synthesized endogenously through the metabolism of choline or consumed exogenously through dietary intake. In addition to its role as an osmolyte, helping cells manage osmotic stress, betaine functions as a methyl-group donor, contributing to various biochemical processes. 

Evidence Supporting Betaine

Several scientific studies support the health benefits of betaine, particularly for cardiovascular health. A systematic review and meta-analysis by Ashtary-Larky et al. (2022) highlighted the positive effects of betaine supplementation on cardiovascular markers. The study concluded that betaine could be beneficial in managing cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of related diseases.

Betaine is a powerful substance that helps cells manage water balance, similar to other electrolytes. Unlike other molecules, betaine doesn't stick to protein surfaces. This unique property allows cells to regulate water tension, stabilizing proteins and ensuring they function properly. This protection is crucial when cells face osmotic stress, especially in the kidneys, which are packed with electrolytes and urea.

Sources of Betaine

While beets are the most well-known source of betaine, it can be found in numerous other foods:

  • Wheat Bran and Wheat Germ
  • Spinach
Eggs (where it is synthesized from choline by gut microbiota)-USDA


Dr. Fitzgerald's Baked Beet Chips

Beet Salad with Goat Cheese

Egg Salad with Avo Mayo, Tamari and Toasted Sesame Oil

Key Beneficial Functions of Betaine:

  • Immune Function in Liver Cells: In the liver's Kupffer cells, betaine acts as a safeguard against high osmolarity. It prevents the suppression of tumor necrosis factor α and reduces the formation of prostaglandins and cyclooxygenase 2. This modulation helps immune function.
  • Red Blood Cells: Betaine plays a significant role in regulating human red blood cell (RBC) enzymes, especially ATPases, protecting them from osmotic stress.
  • Muscle Protection: By shielding skeletal muscle myosin ATPase, betaine prevents structural damage caused by urea.
  • Intestinal Health: Betaine aids in water movement across the intestinal walls and helps regulate the small intestine's water balance, particularly in broiler chicks. It also prevents parasitic infections like coccidiosis.
  • Protein Hydration: Betaine is the best-known molecule for keeping proteins like albumin hydrated. It forms almost a complete water layer around these proteins and also maintains hemoglobin's hydration.
  • Heart Health: Betaine's role as a methyl donor is particularly important for cardiovascular health. It aids in the metabolism of homocysteine, a substance that, at high levels, is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. By converting homocysteine to methionine, betaine helps maintain healthy homocysteine levels, thereby supporting heart health.

Betaine is a powerful compound with numerous health benefits, from improving digestion and liver health to supporting heart health. Its natural occurrence in foods like beets, wheat bran, spinach, and eggs makes it accessible through a balanced diet. However, the average betaine intake is only around 100–400 mg/day, while 2500mg or more is required to see optimal benefits. For those looking to improve their health, betaine supplementation could be a missing link in adequate GI health, nutrient absorption and metabolism.

Dr. Clark's Betaine HCL

Dr. Clark’s Betaine with Pepsin

Formulated with Pesin for extra digestive enzymatic activity. 





USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/data/choline/choln02.pdf
Zeisel SH, Mar MH, Howe JC, Holden JM. Concentrations of choline-containing compounds and betaine in common foods. J Nutr. 2003 May;133(5):1302-7. doi: 10.1093/jn/133.5.1302. Erratum in: J Nutr. 2003 Sep;133(9):2918. PMID: 12730414.

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