The association of betaine, homocysteine and related metabolites with cognitive function in Dutch elderly people

Br J Nutr. 2007 Nov;98(5):960-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114507750912. Epub 2007 May 31.


The importance of the one-carbon metabolites, choline and homocysteine, to brain function is well known. However, the associations between the one-carbon metabolites choline, betaine, methionine and dimethylglycine with cognition in elderly are unclear. We therefore examined the associations of these metabolites with cognition in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Individuals (n 195) were randomized to receive daily oral capsules with either 1000 microg cobalamin (vitamin B12), or 1000 microg cobalamin plus 400 microg folic acid, or placebo for 24 weeks. Concentrations of homocysteine, methionine, choline, betaine and dimethylglycine were assessed before and after 12 and 24 weeks of treatment. Cognitive function, including domains of attention, construction, sensomotor speed, memory and executive function, was assessed before and after 24 weeks of treatment. At baseline, elevated plasma homocysteine was associated with lower performance of attention, construction, sensomotor speed and executive function. In addition, betaine was positively associated with better performance of construction, sensomotor speed and executive function, whereas elevated concentrations of methionine were positively associated with sensomotor speed. Daily combined supplementation with cobalamin plus folic acid decreased total homocysteine concentrations by 36%, and increased betaine concentrations by 38%. Participants with the largest increases in betaine concentrations showed a borderline significant (P = 0.07) higher memory performance compared to those without it. Although this trial observed associations of homocysteine and betaine with cognitive domains prior to supplementation, decreased concentrations of homocysteine were not related to improved cognitive performance. There was a tendency of participants with the largest increases in betaine concentrations to show the greatest improvement in memory function.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Betaine / blood*
  • Choline / blood
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / pharmacology
  • Homocysteine / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects
  • Sarcosine / analogs & derivatives
  • Sarcosine / blood
  • Vitamin B 12 / pharmacology*
  • Vitamin B Complex / pharmacology


  • Drug Combinations
  • Homocysteine
  • Vitamin B Complex
  • Betaine
  • dimethylglycine
  • Folic Acid
  • Choline
  • Vitamin B 12
  • Sarcosine