Betaine Suppresses Inflammation During Aging: Possible Antiaging Effect

The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 9 No. 1 • January 2006

Betaine Suppresses Inflammation During Aging: Possible Antiaging Effect

Betaine (also called trimethylglycine) is a nutritional component of many foods, including wheat, shellfish, spinach, and sugar beets.1 It is also available as an inexpensive dietary supplement. The function it serves in the plants that make it is to protect against osmotic stresses, such as drought, high salinity, or temperature stresses. Earlier studies hypothesized that betaine contained in red wine and whole grain may play a role in the cardiovascular protective effect of those foods.1 It is also an important part of a major pathway for decreasing homocysteine in humans and other animals by contributing a methyl group for remethylating homocysteine to methionine.1 Betaine can be synthesized from choline, hence taking a betaine supplement is a way to spare choline for its other uses, such as to make acetylcholine and phosphatidylcholine.1 The authors of the paper (Ref 1) suggest that “… combined ingestion of folic acid and betaine may be the most effective method of lowering homocysteine.” They also note that some of the studies in which betaine supplementation lowered homocysteine concentrations and improved some clinical conditions (including heart disease and glucose tolerance in both diabetic and nondiabetic subjects) lasted for 13–16 years, and betaine dosage was typically 6 grams per day.

A new study2 now reports that betaine suppresses certain proinflammatory signaling factors during aging, including NF-kappaB. NF-kappaB controls the transcription of a number of inflammatory molecules, including tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interleukins (ILs), chemokines, adhesion molecules, and inducible enzymes, such as cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). All these inflammatory signaling agents are involved in conditions such as cancer, arthritis, and atherosclerosis. [They are also involved in certain conditions where inflammation is on net beneficial, especially fighting infections. Therefore, one should be cautious in using powerful drugs that block these signaling pathways—unless one has a serious medical condition that requires that degree of inhibition—that’s why you need a knowledgeable doctor familiar with both prescription drugs and nutrition. Otherwise, mild suppression of inflammation via appropriate dietary supplements would be the way to go for healthy people or those with only a nonsevere degree of inflammatory pathophysiology (such as mild arthritis).]

This study is interesting because it looked at aging rats (Sprague-Dawley), which, like humans, have increasing levels of NF-kappaB in association with age, as well as with atherosclerosis, cancer, and other processes associated with oxidative stress and inflammation.2 “Recent reviews show that upregulated NF-kappaB activity seems to be a widespread biological phenomenon in aged animals and that NF-kappaB is a critical transcription factor involved in the pathogenesis of many disorders, including inflammatory diseases.”2

Betaine was added to regular rat chow at levels of 0.01%, 0.02%, or 0.04% and fed to 21-month-old rats for 10 days. On the basis that each rat ate on average 3 mg, 6 mg, or 12 mg of betaine, they ate 30, 60, or 120 mg/kg of body weight of betaine per day.

We suggest that, if you are not already taking betaine, you add it to your daily regimen. We both take it (Sandy takes 500 mg four times a day, and Durk takes 1 g four times a day).


  1. Craig. Betaine in human nutrition. Am J Clin Nutr 80:539-49 (2004).
  2. Eun Kyung Go et al. Betaine suppresses proinflammatory signaling during aging: the involvement of nuclear factor kappa B via nuclear factor-inducing kinase/IkappaB kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinases. J Gerontol: Biol Sci 60A(10):1252-64 (2005).

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