Also known as betaine, trimethylglycine is one of the main methylating agents and osmoregulators in our body.
What is trimethylglycine?
As the name suggests, trimethylglycine (TMG) is a molecule that structurally represents the amino acid glycine with three methyl groups attached to it.
In many places you will find TMG called betaine. This is somewhat incorrect, as betaine is a category of molecules and TMG is one of those molecules.
Probably because it was the first molecule of this complex discovered in the 19th century from the vegetable beet, that’s why TMG and betaine are often used interchangeably.
In some places you will find the name glycine betaine, which distinguishes it well from other betaine molecules.
Let’s also clarify that betaine and betaine hydrochloride are two different things.
What is its main mechanism of action?
Trimethylglycine plays an essential role in the methylation of the body, similar to folic acid.
Methylation is one of the most important processes in our body and takes place in hundreds of chemical reactions. These reactions are responsible for the detoxification of the body, the synthesis of neurotransmitters, protein synthesis, hormonal regulation and many others.
Like two other known substances – creatine and taurine , TMG is also an osmotic substance and its other main role is to be an osmoregulator – regulating the amounts of water and minerals in the body.
How do we get TMG?
TMG can be obtained in 3 main ways:
- Our body synthesizes certain amounts of TMG. The human body can convert the substance choline to betaine in the liver;
- TMG can be obtained from food. Found in cereals, vegetables, fruits, meat, fish , dairy products. Famous foods rich in TMG are: quinoa, spinach, wheat bran, beets;
- As a dietary supplement, you can find products in a dosage of 500 to 1000 mg of trimethylglycine per dose.
Keep in mind that cooking reduces the levels of betaine in them, with the biggest drop in cooking. 33
Digestibility and elimination
Trimethylglycine is absorbed in the small intestine, especially in the duodenum.
Absorption is abrupt and rapid, within about 15-20 minutes after oral administration, reaching a peak after 40-60 minutes. It is easily and almost completely assimilated.
The retention time in the body is also very good. TMG has a long elimination half-life. With a single dose, the time is between 10 and 20 hours, and with a long dose between 30 and 50 hours. 1.2
Potential and proven benefits
- Reduces homocysteine levels – this is the largest, proven repeatedly positive of TMG intake. In people with normal homocysteine levels, the decline is about 10%, while in people with homocystinuria (above normal levels), the decline is between 20 and 40%. The decrease in levels occurs from the first dose and continues for as long as the intake of trimethylglycine; 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13
- Improves symptoms in people with dry mouth (Sjögren’s syndrome) – this is the reason why TMG is included in some toothpastes or mouthwashes; 14.15
- Reduces levels of fat and liver enzymes in people with hepatic steatosis (obese liver ). Possible improvements are up to 25% reduction in excess fat and between 10 and 15% reduction in liver indicators AST, ALT and y-GT. 16,17,18,19,20,21
Unproven and speculative benefits
- Betaine is thought to be beneficial in people with Alzheimer’s, mainly because of the association of elevated homocysteine levels with the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. At this stage, it is simply a theory that has yet to be explored; 22,23,24
- It has been suggested that improved methylation in the body may reduce symptoms in people with Angelman syndrome, but there are no positive results at this stage; 25
- There is a lot of speculation in sports about whether betaine can help trainees, and although some minimal positives are possible, they are very small and uncertain. You can try, but don’t expect much. 26,27,28,29
What are the recommended doses?
As an absolute minimum, the dose of TMG should be between 500 and 1000 mg per day.
The recommended working dose is between 3000 and 6000 mg per day, divided into 2 doses. It does not have to be taken with food.
The dose can be increased to 20 grams per day in people who are resistant to the standard dose.
Trimethylglycine can be successfully combined with folic acid . In addition to the fact that folic acid is also a well-known and good methyl group donor, research has shown a further reduction in homocysteine levels in the combination of 1 mg of folic acid with 6000 mg of betaine. 30
What are the possible side effects?
Trimethylamine (TMA) is a metabolite known for its fishy odor. At normal TMA levels, this odor is imperceptible, but as levels rise (trimethylaminuria), a person’s urine, sweat and / or breath may acquire an unpleasant fishy odor. This is the so-called fish mizirma syndrome.
There are two possible causes for this syndrome, called primary and secondary trimethylaminuria. The primary is due to a genetic mutation, while the secondary is due to suboptimal work of the liver enzyme FMO3.
But it can also be caused by taking high doses of certain dietary supplements . Such supplements are l- carnitine , choline and TMG. 31
One study observed an increase in total cholesterol at a therapeutic dose of TMG of 6 mg, as well as about a 10% increase in blood triglyceride levels. 32
Finally, like any osmotic agent, diarrhea may occur at higher doses.
In general, TMG is very well tolerated and has been tested in doses up to 20 grams per day without serious side effects.