What if someone told you there’s a supplement that has been shown to boost brain function, reduce stress, and protect your heart? And what if you learned that same supplement might also lead to positive behavioral changes in individuals with autism and less frequent seizures in epileptics? Chances are you’d be eager to learn more about a potent supplement known as DMG, so here’s what we know.
What Is Dimethylglycine (DMG)?
Dimethylglycine, also referred to as DMG, was discovered in 1943 and has been marketed as a nutritional supplement since 1974. In 2000, two prominent U.S. researchers dubbed DMG “a nutrient for the new millennium” in a letter to doctors and patients (1). Dr. Alissia Zenhausern, a natural medicine doctor, agrees that the nutrient has shown promise in numerous areas. “DMG not only can enhance immune function but can promote neurological function and be used in the treatment of autism and epilepsy,” says Zenhausern who practices at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale. Additional research suggests it might also help if you’re an athlete looking to improve your performance.
DMG is a derivative (something produced from another compound of similar structure) of the amino acid glycine. “Glycine is one of the 20 amino acids commonly used to synthesize proteins in humans,” explains Dr. Julie Kissel of BodyLogicMD of Cincinnati. DMG was originally known as Vitamin B-16. “This name is a bit of a misnomer, because deficiency of DMG does not typically lead to any ill effects, as would other vitamin or mineral deficiencies,” says Dr. Kissel, who is board certified in both integrative and family medicine.
Sources of Dimethylglycine (DMG)
DMG is a nutrient produced naturally in the cells of both plants and animals in small, fleeting amounts during the metabolism of choline into glycine. Dimethylglycine that’s not metabolized in the liver is transported by the circulatory system to body tissue. Small amounts can also be found in certain foods, including the following:
- Cereal grains
- The outer coating of rice
- Brewer’s yeast
- Organ meat, such as liver
- Many types of seeds
Indirect dietary sources of DMG (those containing choline) include:
- Dairy products
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Certain beans, nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
DMG is commonly found in supplementation form (typically either capsule or liquid).
7 Potential Benefits of DMG
DMG was once popular with Russian athletes and cosmonauts because it was thought to increase endurance and reduce fatigue. Today, scientists are looking more closely at different uses for the supplement.
DMG is a methyl donor: it supports the process of methylation, a simple biochemical process—the transfer of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms—from one substance to another. “Methylation is important for multiple activities in the body including, but not limited to: DNA production, neurotransmitter production, liver detoxification, fat metabolism, protection against fatty accumulation in the liver, histamine metabolism, estrogen metabolism, and cellular energy,” Dr. Kissel says.
It’s important to note that many of the purported benefits of DMG have insufficient clinical evidence for their health claims, Dr. Kissel adds. “However, this is also the case for many well-known natural supplements and remedies that have been in effective use for thousands of years.”
A few of the potential benefits of DMG supplementation include:
Improved Athletic Performance
Perhaps one of the most widely known and utilized benefits of DMG is for improved athletic performance. “Various studies examining moderate intensity exercise found DMG to delay fatigue, which occurs as a result of its ability to inhibit lactate production,” says Dr. Kissel. “Subsequent research also found links between DMG and reduced oxidative stress and improved performance in both humans and animals (2).”
Boosting Brain Function
We all want to stay young forever. Unfortunately, as we age, our gray matter shrinks, making us more forgetful and slower to process information. “The reason DMG has been reported to increase brain function is because it is considered a powerful antioxidant and enhancer of oxygenation at a cellular level,” explains Dr. Zenhausern. “This increase in oxygenation improves the function of cells of the body, including those in the brain.” In addition, DMG supports the body’s production of creatine and phosphocreatine, which fuel energy within the brain.
DMG may also help ease depression. “Some animal research has supported the anti-depressant effects of DMG, reported by various studies published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (3),” notes Dr. Kissel.
When it comes to stress, Americans have more than their share. In fact, 75 percent of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year, according to an American Psychological Association survey (4).
Not all stress is bad. It can be healthful and essential in keeping us alert; however, intense or prolonged stress can be overwhelming on the body. Chronic stress, a long-term form of stress, may prematurely age the immune system and could enhance the risk of illness as well as age-related diseases. “DMG has the potential to help the body adapt to environmental, physical, emotional and mental stressors by providing nutrients that are often depleted with chronic stress,” Dr. Kissel explains. DMG supports the body during stress by improving cellular oxygen, which in turn improves energy and supports mental alertness.
“DMG has been studied to not only improve the response of the immune system in human and animal studies, but it also enhances oxygen utilization during hypoxia (low oxygen), reducing lactic acid build-up in the blood during stress-induced events,” says Dr. Zenhausern.
Promoting Cardiovascular Health/Lowering Heart Disease Risk
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. One in 4 deaths can be traced to the dreaded disease, according to CDC.gov (5). When it comes to lowering risk, DMG has shown promise. “DMG aids in the reduction of homocysteine levels,” says Dr. Zenhausern. Homocysteine, which is a common amino acid found in the blood, has been linked to an increased risk in heart disease when elevated. “DMG also optimizes cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, improving cardiovascular function,” she adds.
Bolstering the Immune System
DMG enhances the body’s natural protection against bacterial, fungal, and viral diseases. This could be music to the ears of patients with immune deficiencies.
Dimethylglycine supports immune function by contributing to methylation, a process by which methyl groups, each composed of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms, are transferred from one substance to another. These groups are essential to cell functions throughout the body. In the immune system, methylation is important in the production of antibodies and cytokine components. One study found that DMG enhances both humoral and cell-mediated immune responses in humans (6).
Supporting Anti-Aging Effects
Since the body’s ability to methylate declines with age, “DMG supplementation in small amounts, may benefit middle-aged and older individuals,” says Dr. Kissel. In addition, given the adaptogenic properties of DMG and the many ways it can support the body, it may therefore be an ideal supplement for older individuals to help maintain health with age. “As it has been suggested to help boost mental and physical health in many ways, DMG may be one of the missing keys to help prolong efficiency and performance of different bodily systems,” says Dr. Kissel.
Hope for Those with Autism
Throughout several studies, DMG has been found to have beneficial effects for autistic children and adults, according to research compiled by Autism Canada (7). The noted benefits include improved behavioral changes (8), reduced seizure occurrences (common with autism), improved speech and language, as well as a reduction in obsessive-compulsive mannerisms.
However, Dr. Zenhausern cautions that more research is needed to better understand the exact mechanism by which these changes arise.
Recommended Dosing for DMG
The appropriate dose of DMG should take several factors into consideration, such as age and overall health status. “It is recommended to not exceed 250 milligrams daily without consulting an expert,” says Dr. Kissel. “Dosage of DMG should be reduced if you are taking TMG, B vitamins, SAMe, and/or choline, since all these nutrients have overlapping functions and can be methyl donors.” Depending on the specific health problem, the recommended dosage of DMG can range from 50 milligrams to more than 1,000 milligrams daily.
DMG should only be taken after consulting with a physician. Then, be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels.
Safety and Side Effects of DMG
For a period of time in the 1980s, DMG was ruled by a federal court in Chicago to be a banned substance for interstate sales. The ruling claimed that DMG was an unsafe food additive. Despite some past uncertainty, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says that DMG is considered a safe and non-toxic substance (9). Research is limited and/or inconclusive on both its efficacy and side effects.
According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, studies have not reported any negative side effects of DMG (10). Further, the database states that the use of DMG is likely to be safe for short-term use (up to 28 days). However, there is insufficient evidence for long-term use or for use during pregnancy or lactation.
Side effects caused by dimethylglycine have not been reported. However, there are concerns it may react with nitrites found in the gastrointestinal tract, which may lead to the formation of carcinogenic substances.
No significant adverse effects have been reported, although DMG can cause overstimulation or agitation in some patients with autism, so careful monitoring is necessary when starting DMG.
As with any supplement, consult with an expert physician or a pharmacist to address any potential risks or concerns prior to supplementation.
Are you considering taking a DMG supplement? Let us know in the comments section below!