The Benefits of Betaine for Your Pregnancy 

Getting the right nutrition through food and supplements is critical for a healthy pregnancy journey. One key nutrient is betaine—follow this guide to learn more.

By: Libby Pellegrini MMS, PA-C
Medically Reviewed By: Cara Everett, MS, RDN, LDN
Publication Date: January 4th, 2024
Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

During pregnancy, a number of nutrients support your health and that of your baby. One of these nutrients is betaine, also known as trimethylglycine. (1) 

Read on to learn more about how betaine is used in the body, why it’s important during pregnancy, and which form to choose for your baby’s growth and development.

What Is Betaine Used For?

Betaine is a one-carbon nutrient used for cellular energy production, DNA formation, and the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. (2) Certain foods like spinach and wheat contain betaine. Your body can also produce betaine from another one-carbon nutrient called choline.

Homocysteine is a compound associated with an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Betaine supplements are used to reduce homocysteine levels in people with elevated homocysteine, as well as those with rare genetic condition known as homocystinuria. (3,4)

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans don’t include a recommended intake level for betaine, although researchers have found that 9-15 g/day is a safe dose. (5)

Food Sources of Betaine

See the table below for ways to get more betaine in your diet.

Food

Serving Size

Milligrams (mg) Per Serving

Shrimp and other shellfish

3 oz

548

Wheat germ

¼ cup

357

Wheat bran

¼ cup

194

Spinach

1 cup

194

Beets

½ cup

159

Pretzels

1 oz

66

Wheat bread

1 slice

64

Wondering what else is important to include in your pregnancy diet? Check out our complete guide to first trimester nutrition

The Benefits of Betaine

Betaine is used for a number of purposes in your body, some of which relate directly to pregnancy.

  • Proper fetal growth: Research has shown that expectant mothers with higher blood levels of betaine have a lower risk of giving birth to a child that is large for gestational age (LGA). (6)

  • Lower risk of gestational diabetes: High maternal betaine levels have also been correlated with a lower risk of gestational diabetes in singleton pregnancies. A recent study also showed that increased maternal levels of betaine, measured in the middle of pregnancy, were linked with a lower risk of gestational diabetes in twin pregnancies as well. (7)

  • Fetal cognitive development: Research has shown that higher levels of betaine during pregnancy are associated with improved cognitive development in infants, as assessed by cognitive test scores at 18 months of age. (8)

  • Reduced homocysteine: Betaine helps reduce homocysteine in the blood by acting in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.

Is Betaine or Betaine HCl Better for Pregnancy?

Betaine is available in different forms. It can be extracted from beets as natural anhydrous betaine or synthesized in two different forms (synthetic anhydrous betaine or betaine hydrochloride). 

Betaine hydrochloride was previously included in over-the-counter (OTC) medications to improve digestion. But in 1998, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned its use in OTC medications due to a lack of adequate data proving its use as a digestive aid. (9)

Most prenatal supplements don’t contain betaine, but those that do primarily use betaine hydrochloride. Only the Genate Essential Prenatal uses anhydrous betaine, the preferred form for use in foods and supplements. (10)

Is Betaine Safe for Pregnancy?

Yes. Betaine is a nutrient that occurs naturally in foods and the body. It's vital for proper fetal development and keeping homocysteine levels within a normal range.

The Bottom Line

Betaine is an important component of a healthy pregnancy. Getting enough betaine when you’re pregnant, either through diet or a prenatal vitamin, can ensure that you’re safeguarding your own health and that of your developing baby.

Betaine is not the only nutrient needed for a healthy pregnancy. To learn more about tailoring a nutrition plan to your individual needs based on your genetics, check out the Genate Test.

This article is not intended as medical advice to treat or diagnose any health condition, but rather as educational health information for the general public. It should not be used as a substitute for individualized medical care from your healthcare provider. 

About The Author

Libby Pellegrini, MMS, PA-C, is a professionally trained journalist and physician assistant. She has worked in numerous healthcare settings, including the rural United States, an inner-city Level I trauma center, and several suburban acute care centers. It was during her time at a functional medicine clinic in Southeast Asia that she developed an interest in the role of SNPs in personalized genetic evaluation and discovered how gene-guided nutritional counseling can enhance individual health outcomes.

Libby graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and her medical writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including WebMD, RxSaver, KevinMD, NPHIC, and Men’s Health.

Sources

  1.  Trimethylglycine. NYU Langone Health. https://froemkelab.med.nyu.edu/surgery/content?ChunkIID=21871 Updated September 2014. Accessed October 17, 2023.

  2. Arumugam MK, Paal MC, Donohue, TM, Ganesan M, Osna NA, Kharbanda KK. Beneficial effects of betaine: a comprehensive review. Biology. 2021;10(6): 456. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology10060456 

  3. Homocystinuria. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/homocystinuria/ Updated May 1, 2023. Accessed October 17, 2023.

  4. Betaine. Mount Sinai Health. https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/supplement/betaine Accessed September 25, 2023.

  5. Stuart C. Betaine in human nutrition. AJCN. 2004;80(3):539-549. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/80.3.539

  6. Du Y-F, Wei Y, Yang J, Cheng Z, Zuo X, Wu, T, et al. Maternal betaine status, but not that of choline or methionine, is inversely associated with infant birth weight. Brit J Nutr. 2019;121(11):1279-1286. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114519000497 

  7. Gong X, Du Y, Li X, Yang J, Zhang X, Wei Y, Zhao Y. Maternal plasma betaine in middle pregnancy was associated with decreased risk of GDM in twin pregnancy: a cohort study. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2021;14:2495-2504. https://doi.org/10.2147/DMSO.S312334

  8. Wu BTF, Dyer RA, King DJ, Richardson KJ, Innis SM. Early second trimester maternal plasma choline and betaine are related to measures of early cognitive development in term infants. PLoS One. 2012;7(8):e43448. https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0043448

  9. CFR-Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=310.540 Updated June 7, 2023. Accessed September 25, 2023.

  10. Dobrijević D, Pastor K, Nastić N, Özogul F, Krulj J, Kokić B, et al. Betaine as a Functional Ingredient: Metabolism, Health-Promoting Attributes, Food Sources, Applications and Analysis Methods. Molecules. 2023;28(12):4824. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28124824

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