Trimethylglycine stimulates muscle growth via IGF-1
A dozen studies have now shown that trimethylglycine – which is the same as betaine – stimulates muscle growth. Italian researchers did in-vitro experiments with muscle cells and may have worked out how trimethylglycine achieves this effect. The Italians believe that trimethylglycine induces muscle cells to make more receptors for IGF-1.
It's every raw material manufacturer's wet dream. You produce what seems like an everyday substance at little cost, and suddenly you read in the newspaper that the stuff has all sorts of interesting biomedical effects. It magically pumps up muscles, helps fat reserves to melt away and bingo... Dollar signs appear!
In studies where this happens with nutrients we are always more than a little sceptical. The chance that there's a manufacturer behind the scenes who's trying to pull the wool over our eyes is of course fairly high. And this applies in particular to research on trimethylglycine.
Trimethylglycine is a waste product from the sugar industry. Bending the truth is a practice that the sugar industry is familiar with, and pressure is building up as consumers start to realise that sugar, in the quantities we currently consume, is toxic. Add to that the fact that it's the same sugar industry that has sponsored nearly all studies which show that trimethylglycine has such wonderful benefits for athletes...
The study that Pamela Senesi and her supervisor Ileana Terruzzi published in the Journal of Translational Medicine is one that has not been funded by the sugar industry. And even though Senesi looked at C2C12-muscle cells in test tubes, and not at lab animals or humans, her study makes it seem more likely that strength athletes may well indeed benefit from trimethylglycine.
The Italians put not yet fully developed muscle cells [myoblasts] in fluid and watched how they developed into muscle fibres [myotubes]. They saw that the muscle fibres developed more contractile proteins [myosin heavy chain; MyHC] at a concentration of 10 millimoles trimethylglycine, and that they became longer too.
When the researchers then looked more closely at exactly what trimethylglycine did during a four-day period – the time it takes for myoblasts to develop into mature adult muscle fibres – at a concentration of 10 millimoles in muscle cells, they noticed that the compound caused an increase in the production of the IGF-1 receptor [IGF-1 R] protein.
The study does not reveal how trimethylglycine increases the production of the IGF-1 receptor. The researchers do not say either whether a concentration of 10 millimoles is feasible in human muscle tissue, and how much trimethylglycine you'd have to take to achieve this.
"Our in vitro work provides the first evidence of possible betaine positive action on skeletal muscle myoblasts differentiation, in particular on the progression of the differentiation process and on myotubes morphology", the researchers conclude.
"This effect is at least partially mediated by the IGF-1 signaling activation. Our in vitro results are consistent with in vivo data obtained in livestock [Nutr Res Rev. 2005 Jun;18(1):31-48.] [J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Aug 15;92(10):2122-7.] and in humans and may contribute the bench proof for a use of betaine as a dietary supplement in humans."
J Transl Med. 2013 Jul 19;11(1):174. [Epub ahead of print].
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