Metabolic, Osmoregulatory and Nutritional Functions of Betaine in Monogastric Animals

  • Ratriyanto, A. (Institute of Animal Nutrition, University of Hohenheim) ;
  • Mosenthin, R. (Institute of Animal Nutrition, University of Hohenheim) ;
  • Bauer, E. (Institute of Animal Nutrition, University of Hohenheim) ;
  • Eklund, M. (Institute of Animal Nutrition, University of Hohenheim)
  • Received : 2008.11.28
  • Accepted : 2009.03.05
  • Published : 2009.10.01


This review focuses on the metabolic and osmoregulatory functions of betaine and its impact on nutrient digestibility and performance in pigs and poultry. Betaine is the trimethyl derivative of the amino acid glycine, and is present in plant and animal tissue. It has been shown to play an important role in osmoregulation of plants, bacteria and marine organisms. Due to its chemical structure, betaine exerts a number of functions both at the gastrointestinal and metabolic level. As a methyl group donor, betaine is involved in transmethylation reactions and donates its labile methyl group for the synthesis of several metabolically active substances such as creatine and carnitine. Therefore, supplementation of betaine may reduce the requirement for other methyl group donors such as methionine and choline. Beneficial effects on intestinal cells and intestinal microbes have been reported following betaine supplementation to diets for pigs and poultry, which have been attributed to the osmotic properties of betaine. Furthermore, betaine potentially enhances the digestibility of specific nutrients, in particular fiber and minerals. Moreover, at the metabolic level, betaine is involved in protein and energy metabolism. Growth trials revealed positive effects of supplemental betaine on growth performance in pigs and poultry, and there is evidence that betaine acts as a carcass modifier by reducing the carcass fat content. In conclusion, due to its various metabolic and osmoregulatory functions, betaine plays an important role in the nutrition of monogastric animals.


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