Betaine: Properties, Functions, and Applications

Betaine: Properties, Functions, and Applications

Betaine, also known as trimethylglycine (TMG), is an amino acid derived from glycine, the simplest proteinogenic amino acid. It is an organic chemical compound belonging to the vast group of betaines - zwitterions, containing both positively and negatively charged fragments (not adjacent to each other as in the case of ylides). Although many of us are unaware of its existence, betaine plays vital roles in our bodies. It is produced in conjunction with choline, or vitamin B4, which is especially important for pregnant women. The name "betaine" originates from its isolation from beets, which are considered the best known natural source of this substance. As a result, betaine is gaining popularity among various dietary supplements available on the market, partly due to its fully natural composition.

Betaine as a Medication

We often come across names such as Betaine HCL, a naturally occurring component of gastric juice. It plays a role in digestion and promotes the absorption of nutrients. It was available over the counter until 1993 when it was removed from the list of supplements by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to its perceived lack of effectiveness. However, studies in 2014 confirmed its efficacy in improving stomach pH.

Betaine with Pepsin is another naturally occurring component of gastric juice. Both substances are particularly useful in the absorption of calcium, vitamin B12, iron, and proteins. Pepsin itself is a digestive enzyme that breaks down proteins into smaller elements, allowing them to be easily absorbed in the small intestine. It is found in the stomachs of humans and many animals and is secreted by the gastric mucosa as an inactive proenzyme.

Betaine's Function

Although betaine may not be well-known, it is considered highly important. It has a significant impact on numerous biochemical processes and can transport various molecules, influencing their bonding. For example, it can facilitate the bonding of hydrogen and carbon. One process affected by betaine is the methylation reaction of homocysteine amino acids, creating methionine. Methionine, an often-underappreciated amino acid, is responsible for internal creatine production, which increases muscle strength and mass, as well as protein synthesis, particularly translation.

Betaine's Properties

Beets, and thus betaine, do not play a significant role in our diets, which is a mistake since they are rich in liver-protective substances, fat-burning agents, and bacteria-inhibiting compounds. Betaine has two interesting properties: it can penetrate deep into liver cells, activating the regeneration of methionine. Since the liver is responsible for capturing and neutralizing toxins, its proper functioning is crucial, which can be supported by supplying betaine to our bodies. Betaine in beets also aids choline, which breaks down fats in the liver. Beets containing betaine can be a key element in the diet of people suffering from obesity and overweight.

Betaine as a Workout Supplement

It is essential not to use betaine too frequently. It is best to plan for doses taken two to three times a day. Overdosing on this substance may cause diarrhea or stomach upset. Betaine should be combined with substances like creatine. Its dosage, or the amount we take, is also important. The daily requirement for betaine ranges from one to three grams. For workouts, it should be taken one and a half hours before and after exercising.

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