Little known nutrient Betaine shows
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
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
Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, is produced by the
body from choline and also from the amino acid glycine.
of Internal Medicine
September 11, 2000;160