TRIMETHYLGLYCINE OR TMG

by Lawrence Wilson, MD

© July 2013, The Center For Development 

 

            Trimethylglycine or TMG is a recent and amazing addition to all nutritional balancing supplement programs.  TMG is a vitamin-like substance.  It functions as an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, energy booster, methyl donor and more.

TMG is also called betaine because it was first isolated from sugar beets.  It is not the same as betaine hydrochloride, however.  I now add it to most programs, in doses of 1000-2000 mg daily.  Most people seem to need it and benefit greatly from it.  It does not seem to interfere with the rest of a nutritional balancing program, which is very unusual.

 

SOURCES OF TMG

 

Plenty of TMG is made in a healthy body.  Some can also be obtained from the diet, and one can take it as a food supplement that is available in many health food stores.

 

Not enough made by the body.  Many people do not make enough TMG today.  The reason appears to be the presence of certain toxic metals.  In addition, stress, infections, inflammation and other disease conditions may use up what the body makes, so more is needed.

 

Mercury toxicity.  Mercury is just one poison that either interferes with TMG production in the body, or increases the body’s need for this amazing chemical.

The problem of mercury toxicity is so widespread that I laugh when people want to be tested for mercury poisoning.  I tell them everyone is mercury toxic today because mercury is so widely distributed in the environment.  Some are more toxic than others with mercury, but we are all subject to it.  If you eat any fish or seafood, toxicity will be much worse.  If you have silver/mercury dental amalgams, you will also likely have more of it.  Mercury can contribute to hundreds of health conditions.  For more on mercury, read Mercury Toxicity on this site.

 

Copper toxicity.  Copper toxicity may also interfere with TMG.  Most people today are toxic with certain forms of copper, regardless of what blood, urine or other tests reveal.  In fact, these tests are very unreliable to assess the copper balance, and most people’s bodies contain some toxic forms of copper such as amigo copper. 

One cause of the copper toxicity is widespread zinc deficiencies in the soil and in our food.  This tends to cause more accumulation of copper in the body.  Women tend to be more copper toxic than men, although it affects both men and women. 

Copper imbalance is responsible for most headaches, female organ problems, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and panic attacks, skin conditions and more.  For more on copper, read Copper Toxicity Syndrome on this website.

 

Dietary sources of TMG.  The main foods high in TMG are broccoli, beets and other vegetables.  These foods are naturally high in TMG and in folate, which are both methyl donors.  The problem is that most people do not eat nearly enough of these foods to get a sufficient amount of TMG from their diet.  Also, even if one eats plenty of these vegetables, it is not nearly enough.  So I suggest supplementing it, as well.

 

Supplements. As a result of 1) low production inside the body, 2) a greater need for TMG today, and 3) inadequate dietary intake of TMG, most people have a serious deficiency of methyl groups and TMG.  This leads to a lot of disease and early death today.

For this reason, taking a supplement of about 1000-2000 mg of TMG daily for adults and less for children is very helpful for most people.

 

THE BASIC STRUCTURE OF TMG

 

TMG consists of three methyl groups (CH3) joined to one molecule of the amino acid glycine.  This is a very important type of structure because, when eaten in food or taken orally as a supplement, TMG easily lets go of two or even three of its methyl groups. 

Letting go of one methyl group leaves a substance called dimethylglycine or DMG.  Letting go of three methyl groups frees up a molecule of the amino acid glycine.  These are discussed below.

 

Dimethylglycine.  When TMG gives up a methyl group, it leaves a compound called dimethylglycine.  Dimethylglycine is considered a B-complex vitamin and has been shown to assist with speech and behavior in autistic children and adults, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), to improve neurological function, and to reduce seizure activity.  It can help one handle stress, improves oxygen utilization, enhances liver activity and helps optimize athletic performance.

DMG also has anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects.  Dimethylglycine is used to improve the immune response, to shrink tumors, and to enhance anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-tumor defenses.  It has also been shown to benefit chronic fatigue syndrome, allergies, respiratory disorders, alcoholism, and drug addiction.

In addition, it appears to help reduce serum cholesterol and triglycerides, and to help normalize blood pressure and blood glucose.  In short, it is quite amazing.

Note, however, that dimethylglycine is not used as a supplement in nutritional balancing, as it is very yin in Chinese medical terms, which is harmful for a nutritional balancing program. Also, it is not as good as TMG, which has all the benefits of DMG, and more.

 

Glycine.  Glycine is the smallest of the amino acids.  This is important in subtle ways.  It very in the formation of collagen, among other functions.  Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and used for connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, arteries, veins, and most other similar structures.

Glycine, in larger doses of up to 3000 mg daily, has been found helpful for sleep and alertness.  I do not use such large doses, but it could be tried if nothing else works.  Perhaps this is why TMG helps some people rest.

 

FUNCTIONS OF TMG

 

            TMG is useful for the body as a methyl donor.  In addition, it has other uses when broken down into DMG and glycine, or transformed into SAMe or other compounds such as methionine.  Let us discuss a few of these.

 

              A powerful and safe methyl donor.  TMG easily donates three methyl groups to the body.  Methyl groups (CH3) are required in millions of biochemical reactions.  Here are some examples:

 

1. Lowering homocysteine.  Homocysteine is an amino acid that, in excess, is irritating to the arteries and is strongly associated with inflammation and hardening of the arteries.  In fact, the level of homocysteine correlates much better with heart disease than the level of cholesterol.

Doctors are beginning to realize this important link.  High homocysteine occurs when there is not enough TMG or folic acid to donate enough methyl groups.  There can be other causes, but this is the major cause.  As explained earlier, a deeper cause for this is the presence of mercury and copper toxicity, which are almost universal.  However, the problem can be solved with a diet high in TMG and folate, or a TMG or folate supplement.  One does not need both in most cases.

High homocysteine, however, causes many other problems.  It causes a deficiency of methionine, and this, in turn, can cause a deficiency of SAMe, causing depression in some people.  Methionine is also needed for other biochemical reactions involving protein synthesis, another critical body function.  In fact, reducing excessive homocysteine helps with conditions ranging from osteoporosis and birth defects to cancer and aging.  It also helps with antioxidant protection, as well.

 

#2. Helping with liver detoxification.  Methyl groups are absolutely essential for the Phase 2, P450 liver detoxification pathway.  Within this critical biochemical sequence of events, fat-soluble or otherwise poorly soluble toxins that are difficult for the liver to remove are joined to a methyl group, and this helps prepare them for removal from the body.  This is an amazing and vital ability that in most people does not work well enough in our very toxic world.

Specifically, the methylation reactions enables toxins to become much more soluble in water.  This allows the body to remove the toxins much better, and it often neutralizes some of their toxic properties, as well.  These toxins include all of the toxic metals in many forms and compounds, as well as hundreds of toxic chemicals.  Much more could be written about this amazing system and how critical it is today for our health.  This is the main benefit of TMG supplementation, I believe.

 

#3. Alleviating depression.  TMG increases the body’s natural production of SAMe or S-adenosyl methionine.  This chemical can help reduce depression in some cases, and is an expensive supplement if one wishes to take it.  So it is far better to just take TMG.

 

#4. Reducing the chances of diabetes.  Methyl groups are involved in insulin release and insulin activity.  When the body does not have enough active methyl groups, diabetes is far more likely to arise.

 

#5. Avoiding genetic problems.  Methyl groups are needed for protein synthesis, also called biosynthesis.  This is the copying of our genetic code from the DNA to RNA, and then from there the formation of every chemical in our bodies.  It is also called genetic transcription.

Without enough TMG, biosynthesis can slow down, telomeres can shorten, and genetic errors, also called transcription errors, multiply, and health is definitely worse.

 

OTHER TMG BENEFITS

 

A relatively yang supplement.  TMG is surprisingly yang, considering it is a water-soluble substance similar to some B-complex vitamins, most of which tend to be rather yin.  This is important because in nutritional balancing science one must avoid most supplements, including especially those that are quite yin.

The reason for avoiding yin foods, yin supplements, and yin procedures, yin lifestyles and yin thinking is that the bodies are already much too yin, and balancing the physics qualities of yin and yang is amazingly helpful for healing the body, mind and soul.  For more on this, please read Yin and Yang Healing and Yin Disease on this site.

 

TMG has an overall parasympathetic effect.  This may be a critical action of TMG.  It may help restore balance to the autonomic nervous system, since most people’s bodies are what we call sympathetic dominant.  As I use this term, it means they overuse their sympathetic nervous system, creating an autonomic nervous system imbalance that damages health.  Taking 500-1000 mg of TMG daily may limit or even reverse some of this imbalance, and thus contribute to healing.

Note: Other doctors use the words sympathetic dominance differently, usually to mean a sympathetic state of body chemistry.  This is very different and has nothing to do with sympathetic dominance.  For more, read Sympathetic Dominance on this website.

 

TMG good for those with an MTHFR defect.  Over 50% of the world’s population today has a mild to severe copying error in their cells that causes low levels of synthesis of folate in their bodies.  This is mistakenly called a “genetic defect”, when it is no such thing.  It is a transcription error or polymorphism or gene expression.  This is an error in copying the DNA code, and not necessarily in the DNA code itself.  For more on this, read MTHFR Defects, Genetic Defects and Genetic Testing on this website.

 

TMG may have other beneficial effects that I am not aware of.  What is clear from our research, however, is that it is a wonderful addition to a nutritional balancing program.  Dr. Paul Eck, my teacher, would be thrilled with this product. 

He always sought to continuously improve nutritional balancing programs to meet the needs of the day, which today means the ability to detoxify hundreds of toxins of which we know very little in some cases. 

The reason nutritional balancing succeeds in some cases when all other nutritional and medical programs fail is, in part, due to this unique ability of this program only.

 

Anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.  These appear to be true, although I have not seen much medical literature about them.  Perhaps more studies will be done on this in the future.

 

 

HAIR ANALYSIS AND OTHER CRITERIA FOR DOSING TMG

 

            I do not use hair analysis for dosing TMG, in most cases.  However, one may give more if the following are present on a hair mineral analysis:

 

1. 4 or more poor eliminators, or 2 or more very poor eliminators.

2. Mercury greater than about 0.05 mg% or less than about 0.01 mg% (or a very poor eliminator, in other words).

3. Copper greater than about 2.5 mg% or less than 1 mg% (or a very poor eliminator, in other words).

4. High levels of other toxic metals.

           

            Other ways of dosing TMG are to try to assess:

 

1. Homocysteine (TMG lowers it).

2. Liver detoxification pathways (P450 and others).

3. DNA-RNA transcription, in general.

4. Light transmission from the eyes to the brain.  The person must be willing to see life as it is – no fantasies.

5. Stomach acid production.

6. Pancreas and blood sugar regulation (very stress-related).

7. Liver protein synthesis (RNA-related, but specific to liver).

8. Brain protein synthesis (RNA-related, but specific to the brain).

9. Liver protein synthesis (different aspects than #4 and #7 above).

10. Brain energy utilization (depends upon sleep and rest).  Activity makes it worse.

11. Other assessments are possible due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities of TMG.

 

DOSAGE AND CAUTIONS WITH TMG

 

For adults.  TMG comes in tablets or capsules of 500, 750 and 1000 mg.  Endomet Labs does not sell TMG at this time, but it is widely available in health food stores and on the internet.  Do not take DMG or dimethylglycine.  Only take trimethylglycine or TMG. 

So far, I have found that most adults need about 000-2000-2500 mg daily.  All brands in the stores seem to work well.

 

Giving TMG to babies and children.  Children need proportionately less TMG than adults, depending on their size and weight.  Babies often need 100-200 mg daily.  Older children often need about 500-750 mg daily or even more.

TMG is available in a liquid and powder or crystals, and this may be easier to give to children.  TMG tastes sweet, so it may be possible to just add it to children’s food.

 

            Cautions with TMG: Most people report no side effects at all from taking TMG.  Most just feel better.  Often they report a little better sleep and perhaps a little more energy, when starting.

A few people do not tolerate TMG well.  The reason, according to our research, is that it brings up psychological issues or it detoxifies them too quickly.  In particular, women who have deep-seated resentments and perhaps some ambivalence about men seem to have more trouble taking TMG.  It appears that TMG activates an enzyme system that is dormant or less active in those with male/female resentments.  Taking TMG, for these people, can cause rather severe symptoms, although the symptoms promptly go away when one reduces or stops the TMG.

Symptoms in these people include some fatigue, nausea, hair loss, dizziness or rarely other symptoms. 

If a problem occurs, begin with very little and the dosage may be able to be increased after a few days to a few weeks.  In a few people, an adverse reaction does not go away.  In some of these cases, this is because TMG literally opens up their reality, which they are not prepared to handle.  This can cause symptoms of anxiety, fear, depression, anger and others. 

So far, however, in most cases, taking TMG is wonderful to reduce healing reactions and retracing symptoms.  If you are having a healing reaction or purification reaction, you may try taking more TMG, as it can help, in some cases.

Medical reports suggest that too much TMG can cause diarrhea and nausea, and may adversely affect the cholesterol level.  So far, TMG seems very safe for pregnancy in the doses I suggest.

 

HOW LONG SHOULD ONE TAKE TMG?

 

            So far, all our clients need to continue taking TMG for several years, at least.  This is a subject of research.

 

IF TMG IS SO HELPFUL, WHY IS IT NOT USED MORE OFTEN?

 

            TMG is used by the ton in the poultry and other livestock industries.  There it is used as a food additive to help reduce the fat content of the meat, improve the muscle meat, and regulate the amount of feed necessary to produce the best meat.

TMG is not a popular supplement for human beings for several possible reasons:

 

1. Methylation is somewhat complex.  Most medical doctors, holistic doctors, nutritionists and naturopaths do not understand it well.  For example, many believe that a portion of the population is already overmethylated, and that more methyl groups are harmful.  However, I have not observed this. 

2. To lower homocysteine, most doctors suggest a combination of supplementary vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid rather than TMG, even though TMG may work better and is recommended for inherited homocysteinuria.  The reason for using B6, B12 and folic acid instead of TMG is that B6 and B12 help move the methyl groups around in certain ways and B6 offers an alternative pathway for the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.  I am not sure, at this time, which is best, but both methods work, to the best of my knowledge.

3. Perhaps TMG helps those who are on a nutritional balancing program more than it helps the general population.  Our clients report great benefits, but I have not heard this from those who are not on a nutritional balancing program.  I do not know why this would occur, but it may be that TMG works best in combination with the other aspects of a complete nutritional balancing program, for some reason.

4.  TMG is somewhat esoteric in the nutrition world, but this article is designed to help demystify it. 

 

To learn more about methylation and TMG, please read Methylation on this website.

 

References

 

* Abdelmalek MF, Angulo P, Jorgensen RA, et al. Betaine, a promising new agent for patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: results of a pilot study. Am J Gastroenterol . 2001;96:2711-2717.

* Angulo P, Lindor KD. Treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver: present and emerging therapies. Semin Liver Dis. 2001;21:81-188.

* Barak AJ, Beckenhauer HC, Junnila M, et al. Dietary betaine promotes generation of hepatic S-adenosylmethionine and protects the liver from ethanol-induced fatty infiltration. Alcohol Clin Exp Res . 1993;17:552-555.

* Barak AJ, Beckenhauer HC, Tuma DJ. Betaine, ethanol and the liver: a review. Alcohol. 1996;13:395-398.

Frankel, P. and Madsen, F., Stop Homocysteine Through The Methylation Process, The Research Corner, 1998.

 

* Gray ME, Titlow LW. The effect of pangamic acid on maximal treadmill performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc . 1982;14:424-427.

* Kanbak G, Inal M, Baycu C. Ethanol-induced hepatotoxicity and protective effect of betaine. Cell Biochem Funct. 2001;19:281-285.

* Mangoni AA, Jackson SH. Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease: current evidence and future prospects. Am J Med. 2002;112:556-565.

* Murakami T, Nagamura Y, Hirano K. The recovering effect of betaine on carbon tetrachloride-induced liver injury. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. 1998;44:249-255.

* Olthof MR, Van Vliet T, Boelsma E et al. Low dose betaine supplementation leads to immediate and long term lowering of plasma homocysteine in healthy men and women. J Nutr . 2003;133:4135-4138.

* Olthof MR, Vliet TV, Verhoef P et al. Effect of homocysteine-lowering nutrients on blood lipids: results from four randomised, placebo-controlled studies in healthy humans. PLoS Med . 2005;2:e135.

* Schwab U, Torronen A, Meririnne E et al. Orally administered betaine has an acute and dose-dependent effect on serum betaine and plasma homocysteine concentrations in healthy humans. J Nutr . 2005;136:34-38.

Wilcken DEL, Dudman NPB, Tyrrell PA. Homocystinuria due to cystathionine beta-synthase deficiency—the effects of betaine treatment in pyridoxine-responsive patients. Metabolism. 1985;34:1115-1121.

 

 

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