Source: The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org). The following is an excerpt. To read the complete article, please click on the link below (at the end of the excerpt).
Until last spring, hardly anybody in this country had heard of a European supplement called S-adenosylmethionine. But when it hit the market as a natural remedy named SAM-e (pronounced "sammy") it zoomed in a matter of months from an unknown import to one of the top-selling dietary supplements in the country.
With that user-friendly nickname, you almost expect "sammy" pills to be wearing a little smiley face. And no wonder: It’s being touted as a treatment for depression and pain (because of regulations, vaguely referenced on labels as "emotional well-being" and "joint health"). Studies suggest it can also help fibromyalgia symptoms. And it seems to have no serious side effects and no known drug interactions.
These kinds of sweeping claims have a tendency to make doctors wary, says James McKoy, MD, chief of rheumatology at Kaiser Permanente in Honolulu, Hawaii. "Whenever something is promised to be a cure-all for so many diseases, physicians are very skeptical because so many miracle cures usually only benefit the producer and the seller," he says.
"But I think this substance has promise," he adds, and several other doctors agree. Dr. McKoy says he has some arthritis patients using SAM-e supplements, "and they like it. SAM-e might be one of the most effective alternative supplements for osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, and I think it is going to prove to be a great alternative for depression," he says.
The Science Behind Sam-E
SAM-e, unlike many dietary supplements, arrived in the marketplace with a thorough background of scientific studies and a history of use. Doctors in Europe have been studying and using SAM-e for more than two decades as a treatment for osteoarthritis and depression. There are dozens of European studies, including controlled clinical trials that show it relieves osteoarthritis pain as well as NSAIDs; and that it works as well as tricyclic antidepressants in improving mood.
In several countries, it’s a prescription drug, says Teodoro Bottiglieri, PhD, a neuropharmacologist at the Baylor University Institute for Metabolic Diseases in Dallas. Bottiglieri, who has been studying SAM-e for some 15 years, also recently co-wrote a book on SAM-e, Stop Depression Now
(Putnam Publishing Group, 1999), along with Dr. Brown.
SAM-e is a compound that occurs naturally in all living cells, and is a key player in a process called methylation that affects more than 100 complex biochemical reactions in the human body.
SAM-e helps our bodies make and regulate hormones, cell membranes and the neurotransmitters that affect mood. SAM-e also contributes to the building blocks for cartilage, and is involved in making glutathione, which the liver uses to remove poisons such as alcohol.
Our bodies usually make all the SAM-e we need. But the level of SAM-e decreases as we age, and levels are low in those who are depressed, or who have deficiencies of B vitamins or methionine, says Bottiglieri. Good diet and vitamin B supplements can help our bodies better use SAM-e, but unfortunately they are not going to do much to help people who have low levels of SAM-e, he says.
SAM-e supplements, however, can raise levels of this compound. And while scientists don’t know for certain how taking SAM-e supplements works, science has shown it relieves pain as well as depression.
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