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What Is SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)?

SAM-e May Benefit Osteoarthritis and Depression

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Updated September 26, 2013

SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine)

Hype and warnings often circulate around dietary supplements. Yet another new over-the-counter dietary supplement known as S-adenosylmethionine, called SAM-e for short, is hitting the market in the United States. SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) claims benefits for treating both:

What Is SAM-e?

SAM-e (S-adenosylmethionine) is the newest dietary supplement being talked about in America. It is not an herbal remedy, but rather a compound produced by our bodies from methionine. Methionine is an amino acid found in protein-rich foods. How does SAM-e work? With additional help from vitamin B-12 and folic acid, SAM-e relinquishes a methyl group from its composition to surrounding tissues and organs. Through this action, SAM-e helps with the maintenance of cell membranes, removal of toxic substances from the body, and the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

Altogether, SAM-e appears to regulate more than 35 different mechanisms. With the breakdown of SAM-e, other molecules are spawned including sulfate groups which help maintain joint cartilage.

Joint Pain / Depression

SAM-e has been used for two decades in Europe to treat arthritis and depression. The substance was discovered in the 1950's at the National Institutes of Health. In the 1970's, after an Italian lab learned to produce it in cell cultures, SAM-e was researched as an anti-depressant. Some of the first patients who were given SAM-e for depression also suffered with osteoarthritis. The anti-arthritic potential of SAM-e was realized when these patients reported relief from their joint pain as well as their depression.

Studies

About 22,000 arthritis patients have participated in studies comparing SAM-e to placebo or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Reportedly, 4 weeks after treatment SAM-e patients get as much relief as patients taking NSAIDs. There are no current plans to conduct double-blind, placebo controlled studies in the United States which are necessary studies to prove the effectiveness of medicines.

SAM-e will be sold as an over-the-counter supplement in the United States. In Europe, it is sold by prescription. The marketing claim will be that it promotes "joint health" and "emotional well-being". The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees the dietary supplement market, does not allow medical claims on the packaging of supplements.

Sources:

New Alternative to Drugs in Treating Depression, Newsday, 3/23/99

The "Sammy" Solution", Newsweek, March 22, 1999

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