Betaine hydrochloride is the hydrochloride form of betaine, a common substance that your body manufactures naturally and plays a role in liver function. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved betaine for treating a genetic disorder that allows too much homocysteine to accumulate in the body, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. Homocysteine is a metabolite of the amino acid methionine, and high levels of it in your body can increase your risk of heart disease. Like all supplements, betaine has the potential to cause side effects.
Betaine is marketed for promoting healthy homocysteine levels. Evidence suggests homocysteine may promote atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, according to UMMC. However, science is unclear which exact mechanisms are responsible. Animal data indicate betaine may help protect you against fatty liver, a condition where fat accumulates in liver cells. Various situations can cause fatty liver, such as alcohol abuse, obesity and having diabetes. However, high-quality studies are needed to know for sure. Some dietary sources of betaine include grains, broccoli, spinach, beets and shellfish.
May Increase Cholesterol
Betaine supplements may increase cholesterol levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you have high cholesterol or are overweight, you may need to avoid betaine. If you're currently taking cholesterol-lowering medication, betaine supplements may work against your treatment by decreasing the effectiveness of your medication. If this is the case, ask your doctor whether taking betaine supplements makes sense for your individual situation.
Other Side Effects
Betaine may cause gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, diarrhea and stomach upset. These side effects are typically mild and therefore do not warrant medical attention, according to the UMMC. Drugs.com notes that some betaine side effects may go away as your body adjusts. Your healthcare provider may be able to provide tips on how to minimize or avoid potential side effects. If you experience bothersome symptoms, consult your doctor.
Call your doctor immediately if you experience serious side effects such as confusion, drowsiness, behavior changes, headache, vomiting or seizures. Consult your healthcare provider before taking betaine supplements if you have an existing medical condition. Avoid taking betain if you have been diagnosed with kidney disease. Betaine may interact with prescribed medications, although no known reports exist of serious interactions. For safety purposes, take betaine only under your doctor's supervision if you're currently prescribed medication.