You want to keep your heart healthy, don't you? I mean, it's the thing keeping you alive after all. Now, of course, things like watching what you eat and exercising regularly have been drilled into our brains for as long as we can remember, so we know that's what we should be doing to keep our heart going.
But what if there was something else we could do? And at the same time, doesn’t require nearly as much effort as diet and exercise? Well, scientists have certainly helped us in this regard, as more and more research is coming out supporting the use of a supplement called betaine (also known as trimethylglycine). So that’s what we’ll be discussing here today!
What is Betaine?
Betaine is an active metabolite of a molecule called choline, which is needed to support and protect the body's cells, particularly those in the brain, heart, and liver. . Choline is needed to create betaine.
In the body, betaine acts as what’s called an osmoregulator. This means that betaine helps the body to maintain the body's overall fluid balance. This includes not only your body's total water content but also the concentration of electrolytes (salts such as sodium and potassium) that are present. It makes sure that your body’s fluids are not too diluted (high water content and low electrolyte content) or too concentrated (low water content and high electrolyte content). Overall, this promotes optimal hydration of the cell, thus making it more resilient to potential stressors.
Betaine is also involved in a chemical process known as methylation, which is known to exert various vital functions in our bodies, such as regulating our genes and the maintenance and repair of our bodily proteins. It accomplishes this alongside folate (folic acid), which is a type of B-vitamin.
But What Does This All Have To Do With The Heart?
It has to do with an amino acid called homocysteine, an amino acid that, in high amounts in the bloodstream, can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, and strokes .
This is because high levels of this amino acid are notorious for damaging blood vessels, which can lead to inflammation, which in turn, can lead to a whole host of health problems such as coronary heart disease and atherogenesis, the narrowing of the blood vessels .
High homocysteine levels may be due to many different factors, including a poor diet, lack of exercise, excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, and even some prescription medications.
More and more evidence suggests that betaine reduces levels of this damaging amino acid in the bloodstream. And the great thing about it is that this positive effect is not only seen in those with high concentrations of homocysteine, but healthy people as well!
In one study, researchers gave three groups of subjects three different betaine doses daily (1.5g, 3g, and 6g) over a 6-week timeframe, with a 4th group acting as a control group:
- Subjects were able to reduce their homocysteine levels by 12-20% .
- This study showed a "dose-response relationship," meaning that the higher the dose, the more the amount of homocysteine was reduced in the subjects.
Now, this may not sound like much, but we have to remember that these are healthy people and is still a significantly lower level of homocysteine relative to how much they had before the study. What's even more encouraging is that these effects began immediately and lasted the entire time, the subjects were supplementing with betaine.
To give you perspective, another study had people with chronically high levels of homocysteine.
- Subjects in this study were able to decrease homocysteine levels anywhere between 20-40% .
Now that’s pretty significant!
Don’t Forget About the Liver!
Another thing that betaine is commonly used for is as a liver-protectant. Our liver cells can become damaged when our liver enzymes are elevated. High levels of liver enzymes are often indicative of liver cell inflammation and/or damage. This can lead to very unpleasant liver-related conditions, such as liver disease, cirrhosis, and hepatitis .
How do liver enzymes become elevated? It can be caused by a plethora of factors, such as certain medications and excessive alcohol consumption, and particular diseases like obesity, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and even celiac disease .
In one study, supplementation of betaine was given over a one-year timespan.
- Subjects were able to reduce liver enzymes by 50-100% .
When you think of the fact that this is a dietary supplement, that is an incredible finding!
Another study, again using a one-year timeframe, involved subjects with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
They were able to reduce the levels of liver enzymes significantly.
Also, they were able to reduce overall liver fat and inflammation.
- Improvements in their liver fibrosis condition were also seen, which damage the tissues of the liver .
Now, this is something you probably didn't think about. Researchers have begun to look for betaine's benefits that extend beyond the scope of heart and liver biomarkers.
There have been studies suggesting that betaine contains benefits for those who are into resistance training.
- One study showed that resistance-trained male subjects could increase the amount of total volume they were able to perform on the bench press .
In other words, they were able to perform more overall work (more sets, reps, etc.) compared to those who didn’t supplement with betaine.
Another study had subjects take betaine for two weeks before an exercise session, which was performed in the morning and during fasting.
Compared to the placebo group, the group of subjects who took betaine maintained levels of an essential component of the muscle-building process called Akt phosphorylation (also known as protein kinase B).
- In the placebo group, this decreased significantly .
This shines a light on betaine's potential of being a useful dietary supplement for those looking to increase their body composition and performance in the gym!
Betaine has fantastic potential for a wide variety of individuals, ranging from those who are looking to improve their overall health markers to athletic populations seeking out a way to get the edge they need to take their performance to the next level. I wouldn't be surprised to see more benefits become discovered for betaine in the very near future!
Just a note before you go:
To get the best results from betaine, make sure to look for betaine hydrochloride specifically. This form of betaine promotes better digestion and absorption so that you’ll be able to utilize more of it and not simply excrete it. Now go out there and get yourself some betaine!
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