Betaine: The Multitasker…Your Heart and Athletic Performance Thanks You

How many of you have heard of betaine?

Now for the real question…how many of you have heard about betaine for heart health and for athletic performance enhancement?

Yes…my assumption is that more of you have heard about betaine than those that have heard about it for these two goals. If that’s the case…that would mean you’re just like me. I’m feeling good that I’m in good company.

I’ve always believed in betaine’s ability to help with gastrointestinal issues…frankly I’ve seen it in action in my clinic with my patients. But when I started digging into the research of what else this amazing supplement can do, I was pleasantly surprised that it can also help athletic performance and heart health. So, for those looking to get in shape or to amplify their already awesome physique…this is a good one to consider. For those who need help with getting their health on track and with heart health…this is also a good one to consider. So, what has studies shown us that makes me think this little pill could be our new best friend? Let’s dive in, shall we?

Lever and his colleagues describe in two studies about betaine and its impact on heart health. Lever suggests that fibrates are needed to help with lowering high triglycerides but loss of betaine is associated with elevation of homocysteine and might compromise the benefits of fibrate therapy (1). They found that a low plasma level of betaine correlated with unfavorable lipid profile and cardiovascular risk. 531 fasting plasma samples and 415 urine samples were collected from patients 4 months after hospitalization from a heart attack episode. They saw that people with low plasma betaine levels had higher triglyceride and non-HDL cholesterol (the bad kind). People with higher betaine plasma levels had lower body weight and lower non-HDL cholesterol. People on statin therapy had higher plasma betaine level and those on fibrate therapy had lower betaine level. Those on statin therapy who had higher plasma betaine had higher CoQ10 than those with lower levels. (1,2)

Another researcher, Olthof and his team, mention in a study in 2003 that a betaine-rich diet or supplementation was associated with lower homocysteine levels and thus could have positive impact on overall cardiovascular risk. (3)

So, there is a suggestion that betaine could help with heart health but further studies are needed to fully clarify this relationship.

Now, if you aren’t concerned about heart health because you are uber healthy…why does this matter to you?

There is some suggestion that betaine seems to help with athletic performance.

In a study by Trepanowski, men were given 2.5 grams of betaine in sports drink and the control group only got the sports drink for 14 days with 21-day washout period. Before and after each treatment, they were measured on various parameters of athletic performance. A significant increase in total repetition and total volume load was seen in the men given betaine. It seems that post-workout lactate level was slightly less in betaine group and slight enhancement of muscle oxygen consumption. The lactate and muscle oxygen consumption was non-statistically significant but there was a trend noted in the study. The increase in total repetition and total volume load was about 6.5% and that was statistically significant improvement compared to the control group of men who didn’t get betaine in the sports drink. (4)

So, what do I think about these studies? I think more studies need to be done to more clearly identify statistically significant benefits but these are great first steps at giving us an inkling of what betaine could possibly do. At the end of the day, healthy moderate exercise is great for heart health if your doctor has given you clearance to exercise. And if betaine can help you work out more efficiently and it could help your heart health as an added benefit…while keeping your gastrointestinal pH balance and digestive health in check? As long as you’ve gotten clearance by your doctor to take betaine, my thought is…why not!

References:

1. Lever M et al. Fibrates Plus Betaine: a Winning Combination? N Z Med J. 2010 Oct 15;123(1324): 74-78

2. Lever M et al. Plasma Lipids and Betaine Are Related in an Acute Coronary Syndrome Cohort. PLosOne. 2011. 6(7): e21666. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.002166. Epub2011 Jul 1

3. Olthof MR et al. Low Dose Betaine Supplementation Leads to Immediate and Long Term Lowering of Plasma Homocysteine in Healthy Men and Women. J Nutr. 2003 Dec;133(12):4135-4138

4. Trepanowski JF et al. The Effects of Chronic Betaine Supplementation on Exercise Performance, Skeletal Muscle Oxygen Saturation and Associated Biochemical Parameters in Resistance Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Dec;25(12):3461-3471

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