What Is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)?

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What Is S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)?

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a naturally occurring chemical compound with a presence in nearly every part of the body. The compound consists of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that stores and carries vital life energy, and methionine, an amino acid that contains sulfur.

Although SAMe occurs naturally in the body, no foods contain the compound. People wanting to increase their SAMe intake to boost their health must purchase supplements. Several European countries have offered SAMe by prescription since the late 1970s, and the compound has been available in the United States as a supplement since 1999.

SAMe supports the body’s immune system and helps to maintain mood-regulating brain chemicals. Researchers believe SAMe may help alleviate conditions including osteoarthritis, depression, and liver disease. Research is still ongoing to unlock the benefits of this important compound.

1. Osteoarthritis

Multiple studies support SAMe’s efficacy in treating osteoarthritis, a disorder that results from the wear and tear on joints in your body. One review of 11 studies revealed that SAMe is as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), a class of medications that includes aspirin and ibuprofen, in alleviating pain and functional limitations related to osteoarthritis.

Although SAMe helps patients manage the ill effects of osteoarthritis, results can take about a month to become apparent.

2. Depression

SAMe is involved in regulating key neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, and researchers have wondered whether the compound could offer an alternative therapy to more accepted methods of treating depression.

A review of studies published in an article in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment journal found that SAMe appears to offer relief from depression for patients who don’t respond to traditional selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), such as Zoloft. However, SAMe supplements may be less effective for patients suffering from bipolar disorder. The compound may increase the likelihood of manic moods and anxiety for those patients, according to a 2002 review of studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

3. Liver disease 

Patients suffering from chronic liver disease also tend to have decreased SAMe synthesis, and early research suggests the supplementation holds promise for treating liver disorders. One study published in the Journal of Hepatology found that patients suffering from cirrhosis, a liver disorder related to alcohol intake, who took 1,200 milligrams daily for two years, saw enough improvement in some cases to delay the need for a liver transplant.

Clinical trials are limited, but scientists believe the compound holds promise. Additional research is needed so the knowledge of s-adenosylmethionine benefits can move beyond research labs and into patients’ lives. As with any new supplement or medication, SAMe should always be taken with the oversight of a medical professional.

Have you ever taken SAMe supplements to alleviate a medical condition?

Image by Clean Wal-Mart via Flickr

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About the Author:

At Holistic Pain, we have a passion for helping you and those who around you who suffer from pain find relief. Part of that passion extends to education and transparency. In our Holistic Pain blog, we focus on new research studies, along with our own tips, for maintaining and improving your quality of life, even with pain.

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