New Year’s Resolution to Improve Health – Betaine Study

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The New Year is a great opportunity to focus on improving your health and losing those extra pounds. To eat a well-balanced diet, including vegetables, fruits, and grain-based foods, reducing saturated-fats, and working to control your food portions is important in helping you achieve your health goals but can be intimidating and overwhelming.

Healthy eating is not only important for weight loss, but also for preventing and managing diabetes. Researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center have become interested in medical nutritional therapy for optimal health, including certain nutritional supplements that may help people at risk of developing type 2 diabetes achieve their health goals to prevent the disease. People who are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes include those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a parent or sibling with diabetes, diabetes during pregnancy, and ethnic minorities.

Ana Maria Grizales, M.D., a young researcher originally from Cali, Colombia, and now residing in Natick, MA, was recently awarded a grant from the American Diabetes Association to investigate one such nutritional supplement. In collaboration with Dr. Allison B Goldfine, M.D., Head of Joslin Diabetes Center’s Clinical Research Center, Dr. Grizales is studying how a particular nutrient called Betaine might improve insulin action in the body, improve blood vessel function (a marker of cardiovascular risk), and reduce liver fat. Betaine is commonly found in beets and other vegetables and grains.

Previous work from Joslin’s scientist Dr. Mary Elizabeth Patti’s laboratory showed that rodents fed a high-fat diet had lower blood levels of Betaine in their blood. However, if Betaine was added to these high fat diets, the mice gained less weight, had better blood sugars, and had less liver fat.  These important discoveries have encouraged Drs. Grizales and Goldfine to move forward with studying Betaine in humans, and previous epidemiologic data shows that low Betaine levels may correspond to insulin resistance and risk for heart disease in people.

Drs. Grizales and Goldfine are now evaluating whether adding Betaine supplementation can improve blood sugar levels and the body’s use of insulin, improve blood vessel function, and reduce liver fat.

Their study is currently inviting people to participate who are overweight and have pre-diabetes or other risk factors for diabetes (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family member with diabetes, diabetes during pregnancy, and ethnic minorities). Interested participants will receive diabetes screening before entering the trial. People who are eligible to continue in the study will receive either Betaine supplementation or placebo for three months. This study is funded by a grant from the American Diabetes Association.  If you are interested in learning more about this clinical trial, please contact Dr. Ana Maria Grizales at 617-309-4736 or email ana.grizales@joslin.harvard.edu.

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