S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a molecule that is produced naturally in our body. It is essentially amino acid methionine attached to an ATP molecule; this molecule flows in the bloodstream naturally and acts as a 'methyl donor'. In chemistry, a methyl group is merely a carbon molecule (attached to some hydrogens), and contributing a methyl group to other molecules may speed up or maintain reactions in the body as a type of metabolic 'maintenance'. Choline is another important methyl donor in the body, but the two are not necessarily interchangeable due to selectivity of some reactions.
SAMe takes part in the formation, activation or breakdown of chemicals such as proteins, hormones, and phospholipids in the body. It plays a role in the immune system, preserves cell membranes, and helps form and break down chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. It works with vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (folate). Deficiency of either vitamin B12 or folate may decrease levels of SAMe in the body.
Since 1999 SAMe has been available as a dietary supplement in the United States. S-Adenosylmethionine is taken orally for anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, heart disease, abdominal pain, bursitis, osteoarthritis, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic lower back pain, tendonitis, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), slowing aging process, liver disease, improving cognition, and Parkinson’s disease. SAMe is also used for treating multiple sclerosis, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), seizures, spinal cord injury, lead poisoning, migraines, to break bilirubin (a chemical in the body), or to help with disorders akin to the accumulation of a chemical called porphyrin or its precursors.
What is SAMe used for?
Studies have shown that S-Adenosylmethionine treats mild-to-moderate depression more effectively than placebo, and is just as efficacious as antidepressant medicines without the side effects including headaches, sexual dysfunction and sleeplessness. Additionally, it appears that SAMe starts to work more quickly than antidepressants, which take 6-8 weeks to start working. While scientists aren’t sure how S-Adenosylmethionine works to alleviate depression, they hypothesize it might raise the amount of serotonin in the brain precisely as some antidepressant medications do.
In many of the studies, injectable forms of SAMe was used instead of oral supplements. More studies are needed in order to determine if SAMe is effective for treating depression. Depression shouldn’t be taken lightly; a doctor’s advice should be taken before taking SAMe or any other supplement to treat depression. Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by sleep, fatigue, mood, and memory issues. Scientists think fibromyalgia magnifies painful sensations by influencing the way our brain processes pain signals.
According to studies, SAMe can effectively reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia, including pain, morning stiffness, fatigue, and depressed mood. However, in most studies an injectable form of SAMe was used. Also, the studies that investigated oral doses of SAMe, some found the doses to be effective when taken by mouth while others found no usefulness.
In a number of well-designed studies SAMe was found to decrease pain and inflammation in the joints. Various short-term studies, ranging from 4 to 12 weeks, found SAMe supplements to be as effective as NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, in adults with hip, knee, or spine osteoarthritis, in reducing morning stiffness, easing swelling and pain, advancing range of motion, and speeding up walking pace. In another study, researchers compared SAMe to an NSAID called colecoxib. They found that SAMe was as efficacious as colecoxib in easing pain over time. Researchers believe SAMe promotes cartilage repair.
Often SAMe cannot be synthesized in the bodies of people with liver disease. Preliminary studies have shown that SAMe may be an effective treatment for chronic liver disease caused by alcoholism or medications. A study investigating 123 participants (male and female) with alcoholic liver cirrhosis found that their survival rates improved after undergoing SAMe treatment for two years better than placebo, and the treatment also delayed the need for liver transplants. Other studies on people with liver disease showed that S-Adenosylmethionine may help normalize their levels of liver enzymes. Studies in mouse model also back findings that show SAMe protects against liver disease and may also reverse liver damage. These studies, however have been small in size and short in duration. Bigger studies with longer duration are needed to confirm these results.
Preliminary study suggests that S-Adenosylmethionine may improve cognition. The study showed that the participants’ ability to recall information and remember words were improved after taking SAMe. The researchers hypothesize that SAMe acts on areas of the brain that control gene expression of beta amyloid proteins. Plaques formed by beta-amyloid proteins around the brain’s neurons is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Some studies indicate that SAMe can effectively impede cancer tumor cells.
Are there side effects associated with taking SAMe?
S-Adenosylmethionine appears to be a relatively safe drug.
Studies on patients with Parkinson’s disease showed that taking the drug L-dopa may lower SAMe levels in the body, contributing to depression and increase side effects of L-dopa. If you have Parkinson’s disease consult your doctor before taking SAMe.
High doses of oral S-Adenosylmethionine can cause symptoms like upset stomach, gas, constipation, diarrhea, dry mouth, anxiety, dizziness, headache, and skin rashes. The drug can also trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
If you are suffering from any medical condition, check with a healthcare professional before start using SAM-e supplements. S-Adenosylmethionine might not be safe for people with conditions such as diabetes, bipolar disorder, and Parkinson's disease. Because SAM-e can affect the blood vessels, stop using SAM-e two weeks prior to surgery.
If you’re taking medications regularly, consult your physician before you start taking SAMe supplements. S-Adenosylmethionine could pose a risk when taken in combination with antidepressants or supplements like St. John's wort. Some prescription cough medicines, painkillers, and treatments for Parkinson’s disease and diabetes may cause side effects due to SAMe intake. Patients taking antidepressants Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) should consult with their doctor before taking SAMe.
Can you get SAM-e naturally from foods?
There are no natural food sources of SAM-e.
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