In a new study from the University of Tokyo, researchers found that a simple dietary supplement reduces behavioral symptoms in mice with a genetic mutation that causes schizophrenia.
They concluded that the supplement likely protects proteins that build neurons’ cellular skeletons.
The supplement betaine was first isolated from sugar beets and is often linked to sweetness or umami flavor.
Healthy levels of betaine come from both external food sources and internal synthesis in the body. Betaine supplements are already used clinically to treat the metabolic disease homocystinuria.
Schizophrenia is estimated to affect about 1 in 100 people globally and is one of the top 15 leading causes of disability worldwide.
There are treatments for schizophrenia, but they have side effects and unfortunately there is still no effective drug for patients to take that we can explain biochemically why it works.
Genetic studies of people diagnosed with schizophrenia have found possible links between the disease and variations in the kinesin family 3b (kif3b) gene as well as another gene involved in the body’s internal synthesis of betaine.
In the study, the team categorized all 45 members of the kinesin superfamily of genes in mammals, most of which encode motor proteins that move materials throughout the cell.
Normally, the KIF3B protein links together with another kinesin superfamily protein and transports cargo throughout a neuron by traveling up and down the cell’s skeleton.
The team found Kif3b mutant mice raised on a diet supplemented with three times the normal amount of betaine had normal behavior, indicating that betaine supplements could treat schizophrenia symptoms.
They found that betaine likely prevents the type of chemical damage, carbonyl stress, associated with schizophrenia symptoms.
The findings strongly suggest betaine could be therapeutic for at least some kinds of schizophrenia.
The team is planning future collaborations with pharmaceutical companies and clinical studies of betaine supplements as a treatment for schizophrenia.
If you care about nutrition and mental health, please read studies about this nutrient supplement may help lower depression and findings of PTSD, anxiety, and depression may not be mental diseases.
For more information about supplements and mental wellness, please see recent studies about this depression drug could shut down the brain if used too much and results showing that using these drugs to treat depression may cause higher death risk.
The study is published in Cell Reports. One author of the study is Project Professor Nobutaka Hirokawa, M.D., Ph.D.
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