It seems betaine HCL is often recommended for those suffering from "low stomach acid" -- which, as I understand, is having too high stomach pH for proper digestion (especially for proteolysis via pepsin). However, I have a few questions then -- though I'm not sure if my reasoning is correct here:
Understandably, one wouldn't want to drink pure or highly concentrated HCl by itself to increase stomach acid! But then, what role does the betaine play?
I'm guessing betaine HCl probably does not dissolve in water to give the same pH as just straight (or concentrated) hydrochloric acid -- since then it would seem just as dangerous as drinking plain HCl!
In that case, if it doesn't decrease the pH as much, making it safe for oral consumption, what value does it bring for "lowering stomach pH" anyway? I mean, one could just drink a little vinegar or citric acid for the same effect?
Or, perhaps, is betaine-HCl just a means of some "delayed release" of HCl to lower stomach pH without hurting the mouth and esophagus during its initial consumption? Betaine may just be a useful carrier here, given it's quaternary ammonium and carboxylic acid groups (e.g., a zwitterionic carrier)
Alternatively, could the value of betaine HCl simply be in providing a source of Cl- anions, possibly for increased pepsin activity? (I'm not sure if pepsin requires merely low pH or specifically also needs Cl- anions as well) Betaine-HCl does seem to be often formulated with additional pepsin enzyme(s) as well...