All about the betaine

A trio of papers on betaine, the first being a 2021 series of thorough rodent experiments relating betaine and gut microbiota, and cause and effect:

“Compared with lean individuals, adipose tissues in obese individuals secrete high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-6, inducing:

  • Systemic inflammation;
  • Insulin resistance;
  • Large amounts of carcinogenic factors; and
  • Increasing risk of certain types of cancer such as melanoma, colon cancer, and liver cancer.

Prebiotics obtained from fruits and vegetables can regulate host lipid metabolism and glucose homeostasis by reversing gut dysbiosis in obese individuals.

kgmi_a_1862612_f0005_oc

Results of this study show that dietary betaine alleviated gut microbiota imbalance in obese mice, and reduced development of obesity and obesity-related complications. Regulation of the miR-378a-YY1 regulatory axis by gut microbial acetate and butyrate was a critical mechanism for modulating:

  • White adipose tissue browning;
  • Classical brown adipose tissue activation; and
  • Lipid and glucose homeostasis

in obese mice after betaine supplementation.

These findings offer novel insights into underlying mechanisms by which gut microbiota affect host metabolism and host immune system, and demonstrate that the betaine-gut microbiota-derived signal axis is a potential therapeutic target in obesity and metabolic syndrome.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/19490976.2020.1862612 “Dietary betaine prevents obesity through gut microbiota-drived microRNA-378a family”


A second 2021 paper was a meta-analysis of effects on human cardiovascular biomarkers:

“Betaine supplementation had a significant effect on concentrations of:

  • Betaine;
  • Total cholesterol;
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL);
  • Homocysteine [negative effect]; and
  • Methionine.

Betaine supplementation did not affect serum concentrations of:

  • Triglycerides;
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL);
  • Fasting blood glucose;
  • C-reactive protein;
  • Liver enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT); and
  • Blood pressure.

Our meta-analysis supports the advantage of a lower dose of betaine supplementation (<4 g/d) on homocysteine concentrations without the lipid-augmenting effect observed with a higher dosage.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2021.1902938 “Effects of betaine supplementation on cardiovascular markers: A systematic review and Meta-analysis” (not freely available)


A third paper was a 2014 cereal analysis of betaine and its precursor choline that found a 224% increase in betaine from 62 to 139 μg/g and a 31% increase in choline from microwaving oats:

“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 diet.

During cooking processes which did not involve removal of water (in this case oat porridge microwaved using instant oats) appeared to lead to creation of betaine. Explanations for this phenomenon could be that betaine is synthesised during the process, or that heating with water liberates betaine from cereal matrix, enhancing efficiency of extraction.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814613012247 “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” (not freely available)


Another 2021 betaine (aka trimethyl glycine) study was curated in Ride the waves of gene expression with betaine for its role in preventing nerve disease. I take 1.5 grams of a betaine supplement every morning and evening when eating hulled Avena sativa 3-day-old oat sprouts.

I found the first two papers from their citing a 2016 human and rodent study Dietary Betaine Supplementation Increases Fgf21 Levels to Improve Glucose Homeostasis and Reduce Hepatic Lipid Accumulation in Mice, which was linked in a comment on this 2021 video:

Ride the waves of gene expression with betaine

This 2021 cell study investigated a dietary supplement’s role in preventing nerve disease:

“A loss of epigenetic control has been implicated in development of neurodegenerative diseases. Previous studies have implicated aberrant DNA and histone methylation in multiple sclerosis (MS) disease pathogenesis.

We have previously reported that methyl donor betaine is depleted in MS and is linked to changes in histone H3 trimethylation (H3K4me3) in neurons. We have also shown that betaine increases histone methyltransferase activity by activating chromatin bound betaine homocysteine S-methyltransferase (BHMT).

A hallmark of MS is the death of oligodendrocytes, the cells responsible for wrapping axons in myelin in the central nervous system and maintaining a healthy sheath. In demyelinating diseases like MS, oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) fail to differentiate and make more myelin, resulting in sclerotic lesions.

Promoting differentiation of OPCs and generation of myelin is of great interest as a novel MS therapy. Waves of gene regulation (repression and activation) need to occur to promote myelination.

This BHMT-betaine methylation pathway ensures availability of S-adenosylmethionine (SAM) for a variety of DNA and histone methylation processes. OPC survival and differentiation are dependent upon DNA and histone methylation, and both processes require SAM.

journal.pone.0250486.g001

BHMT uses betaine to remethylate homocysteine to methionine. Betaine can be taken in through the diet or synthesized through the oxidation of choline in mitochondria.

We demonstrated that oligodendrocyte gene expression can be modulated by betaine supplementation through the BHMT-betaine methylation pathway. Our study suggests that dietary betaine supplementation may prove to be a therapeutic agent for MS and other demyelinating disorders.”

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0250486 “The BHMT-betaine methylation pathway epigenetically modulates oligodendrocyte maturation”


I started taking betaine 16 years ago. Didn’t know of these effects until reading this study.

Treating psychopathological symptoms will somehow resolve causes? had more on betaine (aka trimethyl glycine). Current dose is 1.5 grams twice daily.

Giving children allergies with pets

This 2021 human study investigated development and persistence of allergies:

“Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a common IgE-mediated disorder involving troublesome symptoms of nasal congestion, nasal itch, sneezing, and associated eye symptoms. Like many chronic health conditions, AR stems from complex gene–environment interactions.

130 subjects with AR were recruited. Control population included 154 healthy children who underwent a regular physical examination in the same ear, nose and throat clinic as AR patients. Individuals with history of asthma or atopic dermatitis were excluded.

AR analysis

Plenty of contradictory associations exist as whether furred pet exposure (cats and dogs) may be a risk or a protective factor for AR development. Discrepancies are likely due to the ubiquitous nature of pet allergens, while pet owners are more concerned about sanitation and many other hygiene-related reasons.

Interaction of early-life pet exposure with methylation level of ADAM33 increased the risk for AR onset 1.423 times more in children. This study provides evidence that:

  • Early-life pet exposure and low methylation level of ADAM33 increase AR risk in children; and
  • The interaction between pet exposure and methylation level of ADAM33 may play an important role in development of AR.”

https://aacijournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13223-021-00526-5 “Interaction between early-life pet exposure and methylation pattern of ADAM33 on allergic rhinitis among children aged 3–6 years in China”


There’s nothing children can do about who their parents were. Exposing them to pet allergens, though, may be another example of early-life experiences causing lifelong effects.

Happy Mothers Day

This 2021 rodent study investigated effects on offspring of maternal high-fat diet (HFD) during gestation and lactation, and offspring HFD during young adulthood:

“We found that gestation was the most sensitive period to induce obesity in late life, and there was no difference between sexes in chance of obesity. Furthermore, we found that lactation and administration of a HFD post‐weaning increased incidence of lipid metabolism disorders and obesity in offspring.

gestational hfd effects on offspring

There are different windows of opportunity for programming epigenetically labile genes. Some studies support the alteration of epigenetic status during development as an important cause induced adult obesity.

Gestation is considered as the most sensitive period because high DNA synthesis and DNA methylation patterns are established for normal tissue development during the embryonic period. These two programming events are the times when the epigenetic state changes most widely in the life cycle.”

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcmm.16551 “Gestational high-fat diet impaired demethylation of Pparα and induced obesity of offspring”


Hey mothers! Do what you please. But don’t turn around and deny consequences of your behavior and choices on your descendants’ physiology and behavior, and possibly those of further descendants.

Gestation, birth, infancy, and early childhood are critical periods for humans. There’s no going back to correct errors and problems.

An overlooked gut microbiota product

This 2021 review subject was histone crotonylation:

“Histone crotonylation is a newly identified epigenetic modification that has a pronounced ability to regulate gene expression. It belongs to an expanding group of short chain lysine acylations that also includes the extensively studied mark histone acetylation.

Histone Kcr was first identified in 2011 where it was found to be mainly associated with active chromatin. Kcr occurs on the ε-amino group of the lysine side chain, where it neutralizes the positive charge of this residue. The loss in positive charge on histone Lys residues weakens DNA interaction, thus making chromatin less compact and accessible to DNA-binding factors.

Crotonate, like other short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), is mainly produced by gut microbiota during fermentation of partially and nondigestible carbohydrates. Circulating SCFAs (acetate, crotonate, butyrate, and propionate) can be taken up by tissues and converted into their cognate short-chain acyl-CoAs, the direct donors of histone Lys acylations.

fcell-09-624914-g001

Crotonyl-CoA is generated as a by-product of fatty acid and amino acid metabolism. Synthesis of crotonyl-CoA can occur in mitochondria or the cytoplasm. Evidence suggests that histone acylations are directly sensitive to changes in concentrations of their corresponding acyl-CoA metabolites, and therefore can act as indicators of cellular metabolic state.

Only a small number of Kcr sites in human histones have been identified so far. This is in part due to a lack of commercially available Kcr site-specific antibodies, which has meant much of the research in this field has focused on studying total histone crotonylation. This is likely to limit our understanding of the importance of histone Kcr, as functional impact of modification at specific sites cannot be readily assessed.”

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2021.624914/full “The Regulation and Function of Histone Crotonylation”


At first I thought I had missed recent studies of gut microbiota producing crotonate. Searching again for “crotonate” “microbiota” 2020 2021, I didn’t find any that weren’t cited by this paper.

A lack of research could be due to factors mentioned above. It may also be that researchers just don’t look for evidence of the circulating SCFA crotonate.

Repositioning DNA methylation

This 2021 human study found:

“We report on a randomized controlled clinical trial conducted among 43 healthy adult males between the ages of 50-72. The 8-week treatment program included diet, sleep, exercise and relaxation guidance, and supplemental probiotics and phytonutrients.

This is the first randomized controlled study to suggest that specific diet and lifestyle interventions may reverse Horvath DNAmAge (2013) epigenetic aging in healthy adult males. Larger-scale and longer duration clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings, as well as investigation in other human populations.

aging-v13iundefined-202913-figure-f3

In both treatment and control groups, there was no net increase or decrease in methylation of 353 sites that compose the Horvath clock. This finding suggests that intervention did not lead to an overall increase in methylation of Horvath clock sites, but rather it prompted a repositioning of clock CpG methylation patterns consistent with a younger biological age.

One significant limitation of this pilot trial is limited statistical power due to relatively small sample size. It is not yet fully established whether interventions that slow any methylation clocks necessarily curtail risks of age-related disease.”

https://www.aging-us.com/article/202913/text “Potential reversal of epigenetic age using a diet and lifestyle intervention: a pilot randomized clinical trial”


Baffled as to why these researchers relied on 2013 research rather than at least Dr. Horvath’s improved 2018 skin and blood clock, a review of which noted:

“Although the skin-blood clock was derived from significantly less samples (~900) than Horvath’s clock (~8000 samples), it was found to more accurately predict chronological age, not only across fibroblasts and skin, but also across blood, buccal and saliva tissue. A potential factor driving this improved accuracy in blood could be related to the approximate 18-fold increase in genomic coverage afforded by using Illumina 450k/850k beadarrays.”

Which would you prefer? A 2013 flip phone, or a 2018 smartphone?

A bat epigenetic clock

This 2021 study subject was bats:

“Exceptionally long-lived species, including many bats, rarely show overt signs of aging, making it difficult to determine why species differ in lifespan. Here, we use DNA methylation (DNAm) profiles from 712 known-age bats, representing 26 species, to identify epigenetic changes associated with age and longevity.

Hypermethylated age- and longevity-associated sites are disproportionately located in promoter regions of key transcription factors (TF) and enriched for histone and chromatin features associated with transcriptional regulation. Predicted TF binding site motifs and enrichment analyses indicate that:

  • Age-related methylation change is influenced by developmental processes, while
  • Longevity-related DNAm change is associated with innate immunity or tumorigenesis genes, suggesting that
  • Bat longevity results from augmented immune response and cancer suppression.

Molossus molossus [a short-lived species] age genes are not enriched for immunity genes or genes that frequently mutated in cancer. However, M. molossus longevity genes exhibit significant overlap with genes involved in immunity and genes frequently mutated in human tumors.

Similar overlap patterns among immunity, longevity, and tumor-mutated genes also exist for long-lived bats.

Two species’ genetic adaptations for tumor suppression have been described to help explain their extreme longevity. Bats also have genetic mechanisms that enable strong antiviral immune responses without inducing damaging inflammatory reactions that may enable them to tolerate high levels of viral exposure.

Our results are consistent with an epigenetic clock theory of aging that connects beneficial developmental and cell maintenance processes to detrimental processes causing tissue dysfunction.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-21900-2 “DNA methylation predicts age and provides insight into exceptional longevity of bats”


The founder of the epigenetic clock has been busy, coauthoring more published studies than there have been weeks in this year! I’ve read five other 2021 studies he’s coauthored on dogs, horses, mammals (2), and humans in DNA methylation biomarker for cumulative lead exposure is associated with Parkinson’s disease. This one stood out for its “longevity results from augmented immune response and cancer suppression” findings.

If we’re interested in longevity, this clarity can direct efforts to both improve our immune systems and avoid problems like cancer. Symptoms may be subclinical, but that doesn’t provide adequate rationale to not address causes.

Peer review comments and responses were informative:

Reviewer #1 – “Developing an aging clock that works for a diverse set of bat species is a spectacular achievement.”

Reviewer #2 – “This is a tour de force study.”

Replies to Reviewer #3:

“Difference in recorded lifespans between three long-lived species and two short-lived species that we used to identify longevity DMPs [differentially methylated positions] is 20 years or more, even though they have similar body sizes (20-40 g). The three long-lived species [maximum ages 29.9, 30.5, and 37.1 years] also represent three different phylogenetic lineages.

CpG sites that undergo hypomethylation with age do so largely at random. In contrast, sites that undergo hypermethylation with age are highly nonrandom, and as has been noted before, are near genes associated with development. So yes, we believe there are predictable methylation changes with age.”

Our first 1000 days

This 2021 review subject was a measurable aspect of our early lives:

“The first 1000 days from conception are a sensitive period for human development programming. During this period, environmental exposures may result in long-lasting epigenetic imprints that contribute to future developmental trajectories.

The present review reports on effects of adverse and protective environmental conditions occurring on glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) regulation in humans. Thirty-four studies were included.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is key in regulating mobilization of energy. It is involved in stress reactivity and regulation, and it supports development of behavioral, cognitive, and socio-emotional domains.

The NR3C1 gene encodes for specific glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in the mammalian brain, and it is epigenetically regulated by environmental exposures.

When mixed stressful conditions were not differentiated for their effects on NR3C1 methylation, no significant results were obtained, which speaks in favor of specificity of epigenetic vestiges of different adverse conditions. Specific maternal behaviors and caregiving actions – such as breastfeeding, sensitive and contingent interactive behavior, and gentle touch – consistently correlated with decreased NR3C1 methylation.

If the neuroendocrine system of a developing fetus and infant is particularly sensitive to environmental stimulations, this model may provide the epigenetic basis to inform promotion of family-centered prevention, treatment, and supportive interventions for at-risk conditions. A more ambiguous picture emerged for later effects of NR3C1 methylation on developmental outcomes during infancy and childhood, suggesting that future research should favor epigenome-wide approaches to long-term epigenetic programming in humans.”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0149763421001081 “Glucocorticoid receptor gene (NR3C1) methylation during the first thousand days: Environmental exposures and developmental outcomes” (not freely available). Thanks to Dr. Livio Provenci for providing a copy.


I respectfully disagree with recommendations for an EWAS approach during infancy and childhood. What happened to each of us wasn’t necessarily applicable to a group. Group statistics may make interesting research topics, but they won’t change anything for each individual.

Regarding treatment, our individual experiences and needs during our first 1000 days should be repeatedly sensed and felt in order to be therapeutic. Those memories are embedded in our needs because cognitive aspects of our brains weren’t developed then.

To become curative, we first sense and feel early needs and experiences. Later, we understand their contributions and continuations in our emotions, behavior, and thinking.

And then we can start to change who we were made into.

Treat your gut microbiota as one of your organs

Two 2021 reviews covered gut microbiota. The first was gut microbial origins of metabolites produced from our diets, and mutual effects:

“Gut microbiota has emerged as a virtual endocrine organ, producing multiple compounds that maintain homeostasis and influence function of the human body. Host diets regulate composition of gut microbiota and microbiota-derived metabolites, which causes a crosstalk between host and microbiome.

There are bacteria with different functions in the intestinal tract, and they perform their own duties. Some of them provide specialized support for other functional bacteria or intestinal cells.

Short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are metabolites of dietary fibers metabolized by intestinal microorganisms. Acetate, propionate, and butyrate are the most abundant (≥95%) SCFAs. They are present in an approximate molar ratio of 3 : 1 : 1 in the colon.

95% of produced SCFAs are rapidly absorbed by colonocytes. SCFAs are not distributed evenly; they are decreased from proximal to distal colon.

Changing the distribution of intestinal flora and thus distribution of metabolites may have a great effect in treatment of diseases because there is a concentration threshold for acetate’s different impacts on the host. Butyrate has a particularly important role as the preferred energy source for the colonic epithelium, and a proposed role in providing protection against colon cancer and colitis.

There is a connection between acetate and butyrate distinctly, which suggests significance of this metabolite transformation for microbiota survival. The significance may even play an important role in disease development.

  • SCFAs can modulate progression of inflammatory diseases by inhibiting HDAC activity.
  • They decrease cytokines such as IL-6 and TNF-α.
  • Their inhibition of HDAC may work through modulating NF-κB activity via controlling DNA transcription.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6658674/ “Gut Microbiota-Derived Metabolites in the Development of Diseases”


A second paper provided more details about SCFAs:

“SCFAs not only have an essential role in intestinal health, but also enter systemic circulation as signaling molecules affecting host metabolism. We summarize effects of SCFAs on glucose and energy homeostasis, and mechanisms through which SCFAs regulate function of metabolically active organs.

Butyrate is the primary energy source for colonocytes, and propionate is a gluconeogenic substrate. After being absorbed by colonocytes, SCFAs are used as substrates in mitochondrial β-oxidation and the citric acid cycle to generate energy. SCFAs that are not metabolized in colonocytes are transported to the liver.

  • Uptake of propionate and butyrate in the liver is significant, whereas acetate uptake in the liver is negligible.
  • Only 40%, 10%, and 5% of microbial acetate, propionate, and butyrate, respectively, reach systemic circulation.
  • In the brain, acetate is used as an important energy source for astrocytes.

Butyrate-mediated inhibition of HDAC increases Nrf2 expression, which has been shown to lead to an increase of its downstream targets to protect against oxidative stress and inflammation. Deacetylase inhibition induced by butyrate also enhances mitochondrial activity.

SCFAs affect the gut-brain axis by regulating secretion of metabolic hormones, induction of intestinal gluconeogenesis (IGN), stimulation of vagal afferent neurons, and regulation of the central nervous system. The hunger-curbing effect of the portal glucose signal induced by IGN involves activation of afferents from the spinal cord and specific neurons in the parabrachial nucleus, rather than afferents from vagal nerves.

Clinical studies have indicated a causal role for SCFAs in metabolic health. A novel targeting method for colonic delivery of SCFAs should be developed to achieve more consistent and reliable dosing.

The gut-host signal axis may be more resistant to such intervention by microbial SCFAs, so this method should be tested for ≥3 months. In addition, due to inter-individual variability in microbiota and metabolism, factors that may directly affect host substrate and energy metabolism, such as diet and physical activity, should be standardized or at least assessed.”

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cjidmm/2021/6632266/ “Modulation of Short-Chain Fatty Acids as Potential Therapy Method for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus”


Eat broccoli sprouts for your kidneys

Starting Year 7 of curating research with a 2021 review of kidney disease and sulforaphane:

“Many chronic kidney disease (CKD) patients progress to end-stage kidney disease – the ultimate in failed prevention. While increased oxidative stress is a major molecular underpinning of CKD progression, no treatment modality specifically targeting oxidative stress has been established clinically.

Pathophysiologic effects occur when there is an imbalance between oxidation and reduction – an altered redox state in which excess free radicals react with other molecules, including lipids, proteins, and nuclear DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is also susceptible to oxidative damage.

All mechanisms discussed above have been shown to be present in CKD. When levels of antioxidant agents such as SOD, CAT, GPx/glutathione, and NRF2 are reduced, harmful effects of oxidation and generation of ROS cannot be appropriately mitigated.

Data suggest continued SFN [sulforaphane] administration is needed to maintain activation of the NRF2 pathway to confer protection against oxidative damage of diabetes. Renal protective effect of SFN has been demonstrated in many other models of kidney injury.

SFN may have therapeutic potential in kidney disease by stimulating the NRF2 pathway.”

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/13/1/266/htm “Eat Your Broccoli: Oxidative Stress, NRF2, and Sulforaphane in Chronic Kidney Disease”


Didn’t see where these researchers intended to perform a suggested “clinical study to assess the effect of SFN in CKD.” Keep reading before experimentally treating patients, please. Targets they missed included:

  • Parameters of myrosinase hydrolizing glucoraphanin;
  • “Consumption of broccoli strains with more glucoraphanin leads to higher plasma levels of SFN” and
  • “It follows that SFN could also pose similar adverse effects, particularly if taken in an isolated preparation.”

Also missing from this kidney review were connections to broccoli sprouts’ effectiveness in preventing bladder disease. Not coincidentally, isothiocyanate metabolites accumulate in the bladder.

I came across this paper from it citing Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease. I curated it due to informatively citing Microwave broccoli to increase sulforaphane levels.

Gut microbiota and aging

This 2020 review explored the title subject:

“The human body contains 1013 human cells and 1014 commensal microbiota. Gut microbiota play vital roles in human development, physiology, immunity, and nutrition.

Human lifespan was thought to be determined by the combined influence of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors including lifestyle-associated factors such as exercise or diet. The role of symbiotic microorganisms has been ignored.

Age-associated alterations in composition, diversity, and functional features of gut microbiota are closely correlated with an age-related decline in immune system functioning (immunosenescence) and low-grade chronic inflammation (inflammaging). Immunosenescence and inflammaging do not have a unidirectional relationship. They exist in a mutually maintained state where immunosenescence is induced by inflammaging and vice versa.

Immunosenescence changes result in both quantitative and qualitative modifications of specific cellular subpopulations such as T cells, macrophages and natural killer cells as opposed to a global deterioration of the immune system. Neutrophils and macrophages from aged hosts are less active with diminished phagocytosing capability.

Gut microbiota transform environmental signals and dietary molecules into signaling metabolites to communicate with different organs and tissues in the host, mediating inflammation. Gut microbiota modulations via dietary or probiotics are useful anti-inflammaging and immunosenescence interventions.

The presence of microbiomic clocks in the human body makes noninvasive, accurate lifespan prediction possible. Prior to occurrence of aging-related diseases [shown above], bidirectional interactions between the gut and extraenteric tissue will change.

Correction of accelerated aging-associated gut dysbiosis is beneficial, suggesting a link between aging and gut microbiota that provides a rationale for microbiota-targeted interventions against age-related diseases. However, it is still unclear whether gut microbiota alterations are the cause or consequence of aging, and when and how to modulate gut microbiota to have anti-aging effects remain to be determined.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2020.1867054 “Gut microbiota and aging” (not freely available; thanks to Dr. Zongxin Ling for providing a copy)


1. The “Stable phase” predecessor to this review’s subject deserved its own paper:

“After initial exposure and critical transitional windows within 3 years after birth, it is generally agreed that human gut microbiota develops into the typical adult structure and composition that is relatively stable in adults.

gut microbiota by age phenotype

However, the Human Microbiome Project revealed that various factors such as food modernization, vaccines, antibiotics, and taking extreme hygiene measures will reduce human exposure to microbial symbionts and led to shrinkage of the core microbiome, while the reduction in microbiome biodiversity can compromise the human immune system and predispose individuals to several modern diseases.”

2. I looked for the ten germ-free references in the “How germ-free animals help elucidate the mechanisms” section of The gut microbiome: its role in brain health in this review, but didn’t find them cited. Likewise, the five germ-free references in this review weren’t cited in that paper. Good to see a variety of relevant research.

There were a few overlapping research groups with this review’s “Gut-brain axis aging” section, although it covered only AD and PD research.

3. Inflammaging is well-documented, but is chronic inflammation a condition of chronological age?

A twenty-something today who ate highly-processed food all their life could have gut microbiota roughly equivalent to their great-great grandparents’ at advanced ages. Except their ancestors’ conditions may have been byproducts of “an unintended consequence of both developmental programmes and maintenance programmes.

Would gut microbiota be a measure of such a twenty-something’s biological age? Do we wait until they’re 60, and explain their conditions by demographics? What could they do to reset themself back to a chronological-age-appropriate phenotype?


Part 2 of Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway

To follow up topics of Part 1‘s interview:

1. “We each have a unique microbial signature in the gut. Metabolites that you produce might not be the same ones that I produce. This makes clinical studies very difficult because you don’t have a level playing field.”

This description of inter-individual variability could inform researchers’ investigations prior to receiving experimental results such as:

Post-experimental analysis with statistical packages of these types of results is apparently required. But it doesn’t produce meaningful explanations for such individual effects.

Analysis of individual differences in metabolism can better inform explanations, because it would investigate causes for widely-variable effects. Better predictive hypotheses could be a result.

2. Today I’m starting my 40th week of eating a clinically-relevant amount of microwaved 3-day-old broccoli sprouts every day. To encourage sulforaphane’s main effect of Nrf2 signaling pathway activation, I won’t combine broccoli sprouts with anything else either during or an hour before or after.

I had been taking supplements at the same time. This interview got me thinking about the 616,645 possible combinations of my 19 supplements and broccoli sprouts.

That’s way too many to be adequately investigated by humans. Especially because contexts for each combination’s synergistic, antagonistic, or additive activities may be influenced by other combinations’ results.

I’ll just eat food and take supplements outside of this sulforaphane window.

I’ve taken 750 mg fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) twice a day for sixteen years. I’ve considered it as my only prebiotic. Hadn’t thought of either of these points:

  • “Polyphenols are now considered to be a prebiotic food for microflora in the gut. They tend to focus on producing additional amounts of lesser known species like Akkermansia muciniphila, and have a direct prebiotic effect. Microbiota break these big, bulky molecules down into smaller metabolites, which clearly are absorbed. Some beneficial effects that come from polyphenols are not from the original molecule itself, but from a variety of metabolites produced in the gut.
  • We use a prebiotic, actually called an immunobiotic, which is a dead lactobacillus plantarum cell optimised for its cell wall content of lipoteichoic acid. Lipoteichoic acid attaches to toll-like receptor 2, and that sets off a whole host of immune-modulating processes, which tend to enhance infection control and downregulate inflammation and downregulate allergenicity.”

3. “Quinone reductase is critical because it is the final enzyme in the phase two detox pathway that stops DNA being mutated or prevents deformation of DNA adducts which are mutagenic. I want to look at genes that govern redox balance, inflammation, detoxification processes, cellular energetics, and methylation.”

Gene functional group classifications are apparently required in studies, to accompany meaningless statistics. When I’ve read papers attaching significance to gene functional groups, it often seemed like hypothesis-seeking efforts to overcome limited findings.

I’ll start looking closer when study findings include Nrf2 signaling pathway targets quinone reductase, DNA damage marker 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine, and enzymes glutathione peroxidase and glutathione S-transferase.

4. I bolded “unregulated inflammation” in Part 1 because it’s a phrase I’d ask to be defined if that site enabled comments. Thinking on inflammation seems to come from:

“We focus on the intestinal epithelial cell as a key player because if you enhance function of that cell, and Nrf2 is part of that story, once you get those cells working as they should, they are modulating this whole underlying immune network.”

An environmental signaling paradigm of aging and Reevaluate findings in another paradigm have a different focus. That paradigm looks at inflammation in the context of aging:

“A link between inflammation and aging is the finding that inflammatory and stress responses activate NF-κB in the hypothalamus and induce a signaling pathway that reduces production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) by neurons.

The case is particularly interesting when we realize that the aging phenotype can only be maintained by continuous activation of NF-κB. So here we have a multi-level interaction:

  1. Activation of NF-κB leads to
  2. Cellular aging, leading to
  3. Diminished production of GnRH, which then
  4. Acts (through the cells with a receptor for it, or indirectly as a result of changes to GnRH-receptor-possessing cells) to decrease lifespan.

Cell energetics is not the solution, and will never lead to a solution because it makes the assumption that cells age. Cells take on the age-phenotype the body gives them.

Aging is not a defect – it’s a programmed progressive process, a continuation of development with the body doing more to kill itself with advancing years. Progressive life-states where each succeeding life-stage has a higher mortality (there are rare exceptions).

Cellular aging is externally controlled (cell non-autonomous). None of those remedies that slow ‘cell aging’ (basically all anti-aging medicines) can significantly extend anything but old age.

For change at the epigenomic/cellular level to travel up the biological hierarchy from cells to organ systems seems to take time. But the process can be repeated indefinitely (so far as we know).”


Switch on your Nrf2 signaling pathway

An informative interview to start this year with the author of Sulforaphane: Its “Coming of Age” as a Clinically Relevant Nutraceutical in the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease:

The Antioxidant Dilemma with Dr. Christine Houghton

“The thing about science is, the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know. And I have this enormous respect now for signalling processes that are going on within the cell, and not just signalling. The way mother nature switches on, switches off, foot on brake, foot on accelerator, continuously all of the time.

Things have changed in understanding the function of Nrf2 for a start, in controlling in many ways those cellular defences. We could then switch on Nrf2. You switch on a whole host of protective molecules all at the same time.

We use NAC [N-acetyl-cysteine] in the lab all the time because it stops an Nrf2 activation. So, that weak pro-oxidant signal that you use to activate Nrf2, you switch it off by giving a dose of NAC. It’s a potent antioxidant in that right, but it’s blocking signalling. And that’s what I don’t like about its broad use.

The real advantage of sulforaphane is not only is it the most potent inducer of Nrf2, or activator, but it’s also highly bioavailable. It’s a very tiny, low-molecular weight, lipophilic molecule that just glides straight in through cell membranes. It’s about 80% bioavailable. Whereas big, bulky polyphenols are about 1% bioavailable just simply because of their chemical structure.

We focus on the intestinal epithelial cell as a key player because if you enhance function of that cell, and Nrf2 is part of that story, once you get those cells working as they should, they are modulating this whole underlying immune network.

I’m particularly interested in looking at core upstream factors that govern cellular defences. So, I want to look at genes that govern redox balance, inflammation, detoxification processes, cellular energetics, and methylation.

Intestinal epithelial, just like any other cell in the body, will respond to Nrf2 activation. It will respond to NF-κB downregulation. That’s going to enhance redox control. It’s going to reduce unregulated inflammation. It’s going to enhance detoxification processes. It’ll increase glutathione synthesis.

All of those core factors that any cell needs to work normally will be enhanced by activating Nrf2. And I use a high-yielding sulforaphane supplement of about 20 milligrams a day to do that. So, that’s the beginning.

Probiotics don’t typically colonise in an adult. That’s where we come back to this idea of restoring the gut ecosystem and using prebiotic foods.

In an ideal world, we’d be looking at 600 to 800 grams of non-starchy plant foods a day. In a real world, that isn’t always going to happen.

I never use the term leaky gut because it isn’t that. It’s a dynamic structure that becomes unresponsive.”


Hadn’t thought about weighing my daily AGE-less Chicken Vegetable Soup dinner (half) then tomorrow for lunch. Its total weight tonight was 2,575.5 grams.

  • Subtract 207.2 g wine, 985.6 g chicken broth, and 64.2 g noodles;
  • Add 131 g 3-day-old broccoli sprouts microwaved to ≤ 60°C (140°F) eaten earlier;
  • Subtract an estimated 170 g (6 oz.) chicken, didn’t measure juice squeezed from one lemon, didn’t estimate evaporation from 20 minutes cooking; and
  • Didn’t include either 81 g dry weight steel-cut oats which becomes 308 g for breakfast, or 103.8 g 3-day-old hulled oat sprouts.
  • Net 1,279.5 grams non-starchy plant foods

I’m doing alright by the “600 to 800 grams of non-starchy plant foods a day” guideline. Should exercise more, though, because I eat a lot.

Topics continued in Part 2.

A broccoli sprouts study that lacked evidence for human applicability

A 2020 study Combined Broccoli Sprouts and Green Tea Polyphenols Contribute to the Prevention of Estrogen Receptor–Negative Mammary Cancer via Cell Cycle Arrest and Inducing Apoptosis in HER2/neu Mice (not freely available) conclusion was:

“Lifelong BSp [broccoli sprouts] and GTP [green tea polyphenol] administration can prevent estrogen receptor–negative mammary tumorigenesis through cell cycle arrest and inducing apoptosis in HER2/neu mice.”

These researchers had unaddressed insufficiencies in this study that were also in their 2018 study as curated below. The largest item that required translation into human applicability was rodent diet content of 26% “broccoli sprout seeds.”

You may be surprised to read the below previous study’s unevidenced advice to eat double the weight of broccoli sprouts that I eat every day. You won’t be surprised that it’s not going to happen. Especially when no alternatives were presented because rodent diet details weren’t analyzed and published.

Sulforaphane is an evolved defense mechanism to ward off predators, and eating it is evolutionarily unpleasant. Will people in general and pregnant women in particular eat a diet equivalent to 26% “broccoli sprout seeds?”

Where were peer reviewer comments and researcher responses? Are these not public as they are by all Open Access journals hosted on https://www.mdpi.com/?

Sponsors and researchers become locked into paradigms that permit human-inapplicable animal research year after year. What keeps them from developing sufficient human-applicable evidence to support their hypotheses?


This 2018 Alabama rodent study investigated the epigenetic effects on developing breast cancer of timing a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprouts diet. Timing of the diet was as follows:

  1. Conception through weaning (postnatal day 28), named the Prenatal/maternal BSp (broccoli sprouts) treatment (what the mothers ate starting when they were adults at 12 weeks until their pups were weaned; the pups were never on a broccoli sprouts diet);
  2. Postnatal day 28 through the termination of the experiment, named the Postnatal early-life BSp treatment (what the offspring ate starting at 4 weeks; the mothers were never on a broccoli sprouts diet); and
  3. Postnatal day 56 through the termination of the experiment, named the Postnatal adult BSp treatment (what the offspring ate starting when they were adults at 8 weeks; the mothers were never on a broccoli sprouts diet).

“The experiment was terminated when the mean tumor diameter in the control mice exceeded 1.0 cm.

Our study indicates a prenatal/maternal BSp dietary treatment exhibited maximal preventive effects in inhibiting breast cancer development compared to postnatal early-life and adult BSp treatments in two transgenic mouse models that can develop breast cancer.

Postnatal early-life BSp treatment starting prior to puberty onset showed protective effects in prevention of breast cancer but was not as effective as the prenatal/maternal BSp treatment. However, adulthood-administered BSp diet did not reduce mammary tumorigenesis.

The prenatal/maternal BSp diet may:

  • Primarily influence histone modification processes rather than DNA methylation processes that may contribute to its early breast cancer prevention effects;
  • Exert its transplacental breast cancer chemoprevention effects through enhanced histone acetylation activator markers due to reduced HDAC1 expression and enzymatic activity.

This may be also due to the importance of a dietary intervention window that occurs during a critical oncogenic transition period, which is in early life for these two tested transgenic mouse models. Determination of a critical oncogenic transition period could be complicated in humans, which may partially explain the controversial findings of the adult BSp treatment on breast cancer development in the tested mouse models as compared the previous studies. Thus long-term consumption of BSp diet is recommended to prevent cancers in humans.”

“The dietary concentration for BSp used in the mouse studies was 26% BSp in formulated diet, which is equivalent to 266 g (~4 cups) BSp/per day for human consumption. The concentration of BSp in this diet is physiological available and represents a practical consumption level in the human diet.

Prior to the experiment, we tested the potential influences of this prenatal/maternal BSp regimen on maternal and offspring health as well as mammary gland development in the offspring. Our results showed there was no negative effect of this dietary regimen on the above mentioned factors (data not shown) suggesting this diet is safe to use during pregnancy.”


I didn’t see where the above-labelled “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” diet content was defined. It’s one thing to state:

“SFN as the most abundant and bioactive compound in the BSp diet has been identified as a potent HDAC inhibitor that preferably influences histone acetylation processes.”

and describe how sulforaphane may do this and may do that, and include it in the study’s title. It’s another thing to quantify an animal study into findings that can help humans.

The study’s food manufacturer offers dietary products to the public without quantifying all contents. Good for them if they can stay in business by serving customers who can’t be bothered with scientific evidence.

Any difference between the above-labelled “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” and broccoli seeds? Where was any evidence that “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” and SPROUTED “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” were equivalent per this claim:

“Equivalent to 266 g (~4 cups) BSp/per day for human consumption. The concentration of BSp in this diet is physiological available and represents a practical consumption level in the human diet.”

To help humans, this animal study had to have more details than the food manufacturer provided. These researchers should have either tasked the manufacturer to specify “Broccoli Sprout Seeds” content, or contracted out analysis if they weren’t going to do it themselves.

Regarding timing of a broccoli sprouts diet for humans, this study didn’t provide evidence for recommending:

“Long-term consumption of BSp diet is recommended to prevent cancers in humans.”

http://cancerpreventionresearch.aacrjournals.org/content/early/2018/05/15/1940-6207.CAPR-17-0423.full-text.pdf “Temporal efficacy of a sulforaphane-based broccoli sprout diet in prevention of breast cancer through modulation of epigenetic mechanisms”

Part 2 of The transgenerational impact of Roundup exposure

This 2020 study followed up The transgenerational impact of Roundup exposure using the Washington State Unversity research group’s most recent methodology in DEET and permethrin cause transgenerational diseases:

“The herbicide glyphosate has been shown to promote epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of pathology and disease in subsequent great-grand offspring (F3 generation). The current study was designed to identify epigenetic biomarkers for glyphosate-induced transgenerational diseases using an epigenome-wide association study.

Pathologies investigated included prostate disease [13 of 44 subjects], kidney disease [11 of 44], obesity [19 of 45], and presence of multiple disease [10 of 45]. Sperm were collected from F3 glyphosate lineage males and used to identify specific differential DNA methylation regions (DMRs) and differential histone retention sites (DHRs).

The number of DHRs were less than the number of DMRs, and DHRs were found to have disease specificity. The combination of DMRs and DHRs is anticipated to facilitate pathology diagnosis.

Low sample number is a limitation in the current analysis. Potential higher variability in data needs to be considered.

This is one of the first observations of DHRs as potential biomarkers for disease. The current study used glyphosate induction of transgenerational disease as a proof of concept such environmental biomarkers can be identified and potentially used as diagnostics for disease susceptibility in the future.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15592294.2020.1853319 “Epigenome-wide association study for glyphosate induced transgenerational sperm DNA methylation and histone retention epigenetic biomarkers for disease”