Betaine is a derivative of an amino acid that serves as a methyl donor in the process of metabolism. Betaine provides a methyl group (CH3) for the synthesis of many compounds such as creatine and reduces the need for other methyl donors such as choline and methionine.
Betaine is also an osmotically active compound that regulates the movement of water and electrolyte balance, provides osmotic protection to many cells, including muscle fibers and intestinal cells.
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Betaine can be produced by chemical synthesis or as a by-product of the processing of sugarbeet. Betaine is commercially available as betaine monophosphate, anhydrous betaine, and betaine hydrochloride.
Apart from the betaine grow-finish diets have been shown to enhance growth performance, carcass leanness, and meat quality of pigs, but the effects of betaine have been inconsistent.
The mode of action of betaine is not fully understood, but it has been suggested that betaine may have energy-sparing effects that increase growth and osmo-protective effects that improve the quality of pork.
The osmo-protective capacity of betaine may also increase nutrient digestibility and intestinal health, and improve the ability of grow-finish pigs to cope with heat stress.
There is a growing interest in betaine supplementation in sow diets during the summer. Betaine is believed to increase lactation feed intake, decrease the time interval weaning-to-estrus, and improve embryo survival during heat stress.