Beneficial effects of betaine: A comprehensive review

Madan Kumar Arumugam, Matthew C. Paal, Terrence M. Donohue, Murali Ganesan, Natalia A. Osna, Kusum K. Kharbanda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Medicinal herbs and many food ingredients possess favorable biological properties that contribute to their therapeutic activities. One such natural product is betaine, a stable, nontoxic natural substance that is present in animals, plants, and microorganisms. Betaine is also endogenously synthesized through the metabolism of choline or exogenously consumed through dietary intake. Betaine mainly functions as (i) an osmolyte and (ii) a methyl-group donor. This review describes the major physiological effects of betaine in whole-body health and its ability to protect against both liver-as well as non-liver-related diseases and conditions. Betaine’s role in preventing/attenuating both alcohol-induced and metabolic-associated liver diseases has been well studied and is extensively reviewed here. Several studies show that betaine protects against the development of alcohol-induced hepatic steatosis, apoptosis, and accumulation of damaged proteins. Additionally, it can significantly prevent/attenuate progressive liver injury by preserving gut integrity and adipose function. The protective effects are primarily associated with the regulation of methionine metabolism through removing homocysteine and maintaining cellular SAM:SAH ratios. Similarly, betaine prevents metabolic-associated fatty liver disease and its progression. In addition, betaine has a neuroprotective role, preserves myocardial function, and prevents pancreatic steatosis. Betaine also attenuates oxidant stress, endoplasmic reticulum stress, inflammation, and cancer development. To conclude, betaine exerts significant therapeutic and biological effects that are potentially beneficial for alleviating a diverse number of human diseases and conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number456
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2021


  • Adipose tissue
  • Alcohol
  • Betaine
  • Diet
  • Hepatic steatosis
  • Methylation
  • S-adenosylhomocysteine
  • S-adenosylmethionine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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