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Dietary betaine may reduce carcass fat in growing pigs. We explored the effects of betaine on short-term growth and in vivo and in vitro fatty acid oxidation. Pigs were housed in metabolism crates and fed diets containing either 0% (control), 0.125% or 0.5% betaine at 80% of ad libitum energy intake. Fatty acid oxidation was measured during intravenous infusions of 1-13C-palmitate and in hepatocytes incubated in the presence or absence of betaine and carnitine. CO2 and palmitate isotopic enrichments were determined by mass spectrometry. Pigs consuming 0.125% and 0.5% betaine for at least 9 days had growth rates that were 38% and 12% greater than controls, respectively. Feed efficiency was also improved with betaine. Fasting increased palmitate oxidation rates 7–8-fold (P<0.01), but betaine had no effect in either the fed or fasted state (P>0.1). For hepatocytes, carnitine but not betaine enhanced palmitate oxidation. This response suggests that previously observed reduction in adipose accretion must be via a mechanism other than oxidation. Betaine had no effect on plasma non-esterified fatty acids or urea nitrogen. Under the confinement conditions in this study, dietary betaine improved animal growth responses, but it had no apparent effect on either whole body or hepatic fatty acid oxidation.