Cereal foods are the major source of betaine in the Western diet--analysis of betaine and free choline in cereal foods and updated assessments of betaine intake

Food Chem. 2014 Feb 15;145:859-65. doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.08.122. Epub 2013 Sep 7.


Betaine and its precursor choline are important components of one-carbon metabolism, remethylating homocysteine into methionine and providing methyl groups for DNA methylation. Cereals are the main source of betaine in the diet, though there is little literature available on the content of betaine in cereal products, nor on betaine intake from cereals. Betaine and free-choline concentrations were measured by liquid-chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry in a wide range of commercially available cereal foods and cereal fractions. Whole grain wheat and related fractions were the best overall common source of betaine, while the pseudocereal quinoa had the highest amount of betaine measured (3900 μg/g). Based on estimates of dietary intake data cereal foods provide approximately 60-67% of betaine in Western diets, and 20-40% of betaine in South-East Asian diets. Average intake of betaine was 131 mg/d, well below those used in intervention studies using betaine to lower blood homocysteine.

Keywords: Betaine; Choline; Dietary intake; Pseudocereals; Quinoa; USDA 1; USDA 2; United States Department of Agriculture Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods release 1; United States Department of Agriculture Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods release 2; Wheat; Whole grain.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amaranthus / chemistry*
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Betaine / administration & dosage*
  • Betaine / analysis
  • Chenopodium quinoa / chemistry*
  • Choline / administration & dosage
  • Choline / analysis
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cooking
  • Diet / ethnology
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Gluten-Free / ethnology
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis
  • Edible Grain / chemistry*
  • Fagopyrum / chemistry*
  • Food Handling
  • Functional Food / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Nutritive Value
  • Seeds / chemistry
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Triticum / chemistry
  • Western World


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Betaine
  • Choline