Little known nutrient Betaine shows benefit.
Although folic acid and to a lesser extent vitamins B-6 and B-12, are known to be able to reduce levels of homocysteine, researchers from the Netherlands report of another nutrient-betaine, found mostly in eggs and liver also has this capability.
They note that elevated plasma total homocysteine concentrations are considered a risk factor for giving birth to a child with neural tube defects and for cardiovascular disease.
Just like folic acid, betaine facilitates the remethylation of homocysteine into methionine. However, the researchers note that " ... the folate-dependent remethylation takes place in all cells, whereas the betaine-dependent remethylation reaction is mainly confined to the liver."
According to the authors, eggs and liver are the best food sources of betaine.
Additionally, they note that betaine has been shown to substantially decrease homocysteine levels in patients with a condition known as homocystinuria, and they therefore theorized that it could have the same benefit in healthy patients as well.
Researchers looked at 15 healthy patients aged 18 to 35 years, who were given six grams of betaine daily (two times per day at three grams) for three weeks.
Blood samples were collected after an overnight fast at the start, after two weeks, and at the end of the study at three weeks.
At the study's start, the mean total plasma homocysteine level was 10.9 µmol/L.
The six grams of betaine decreased this level at two weeks by 0.9 µmol/L or slightly greater than 8 percent, although after three weeks by 0.6 µmol/L or 5.5 percent.
The authors conclude that "Betaine supplementation decreases plasma total homocysteine concentrations in healthy volunteers." However, the extent of the decrease is much smaller in healthy volunteers than in patients with homocystinuria. In such patients, with plasma total homocysteine concentrations above 50 µmol/L, betaine supplementation significantly lowered plasma total homocysteine concentrations, by up to 75 percent."
However, they note that "The homocysteine-lowering effect seems smaller than that established by interventions with folic acid."
Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, is produced by the body from choline and also from the amino acid glycine.
Archives of Internal Medicine September 11, 2000;160
It is surprising that betaine also shows improvement in homocysteine. I use it quite frequently as an aid to digestion when it shows up clinically on people.
There is a hydrochloric acid reflex present on the lowest rib approximately one inch lateral to the midline. If this area on the rib is tender to palpation there is a strong likelihood the person is deficient in hydrochloric acid and would benefit from supplementation.
This is especially common in individuals over 50 years old, and also in individuals with food allergies.