Note: This is part one, click here for part two!
In my work in the dietary supplement industry, looking for the next great ingredient is an important part of what I do. It usually starts by examining the clinical research studies, followed by testing, then working with raw material manufacturers to create a product suitable for human consumption.
During my 20 years in the business I occasionally encounter fantastic dietary supplement ingredients that are multi-functional, offering users a variety of benefits. This is true in the case of SAMe. Another interesting aspect of SAMe is that it may very well be the next major longevity nutrient, in addition to its effectiveness in relieving symptoms of osteoarthritis, depression, fibromyalgia, and liver problems.
In this two part series I present the research results of over 40 clinical studies using SAMe to treat a variety of disorders conducted over a period of 5 decades. Let this be a lesson to the critics of dietary supplements; and let the uninformed be transformed from reading this article.
In part I, I review the basics about SAMe and its effectiveness for treating osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, with some information to consider concerning exercise for sufferers of arthritis. Then in part II of this series (see next issue), you will learn about how SAMe works to treat depression and liver disorders. You will also find some guidelines on taking SAMe supplements, and the comprehensive scientific reference section.
When reading this article keep in mind that with any health issue, individuals with known disorders should always consult their doctor before starting a dietary intervention. So if you are reading this article for yourself or your client, when using nutritional or exercise programs as supportive treatment of a disease condition, working under doctor supervision is mandatory.
What Is SAMe?
SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine) is a compound that occurs naturally in our bodies, but as we age not enough is produced for adequate health. This is when the trouble begins.
What Does SAMe Do?
SAMe is essential to healthy activity in all human cells and plays a central role in hundreds of metabolic reactions. It is even involved in the production of glucosamine, which researchers believe helps make SAMe beneficial to joint function. SAMe also helps the body produce brain chemicals which help promote an energetic outlook on life and relieve depression. It also helps protect and promote the body's structure and function in a number of other ways.
What Happens If SAMe Levels Drop Too Low In My Body?
Low levels of SAMe have been linked to problems with maintenance of healthy cartilage and joint function, leading to arthritis. With aging and low SAMe production, many people may experience mood fluctuations and a drain on their mental energy and feeling of well-being, leading to depression. Problems with SAMe production have also been linked to liver dysfunction and premature aging.
How Can SAMe Be Involved In Treating Arthritis & Depression - Two Functions That Seem So Different?
SAMe is involved in many of your body's natural reactions needed to promote and maintain good health; the influence of SAMe is vast. While medical research has established the connection between the role of SAMe in stimulating and promoting maintenance of healthy joints and mental wellness, researchers also suspect that SAMe's role in good health is more widespread.
Are All SAMe Products The Same?
Absolutely not! SAMe is a delicate natural substance which requires special care in manufacturing and packaging. Look for brands which guarantee potency and make their SAMe products using pharmaceutical standards.
SAMe To The Rescue
Medical Research Concludes That You Can Use SAMe to Beat Arthritis Naturally!
This is the new credo for millions of people who have taken the responsibility to explore natural alternatives to treating and beating this terrible disorder. With the advent of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, the medical community has opened its eyes to the use of natural remedies in treating degenerative diseases such as arthritis. SAMe has been shown in many medical studies to help relieve persistent symptoms of arthritis.
Overcoming Degenerative Disorders and Diseases With SAMe
Degenerative disorders and diseases are words that seem to creep up on us as we age and are used more and more in an aging society. Osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and depression are on the rise in pandemic proportions. Worldwide, over a billion adults experience one or all of these conditions sometime during their life. Tragically for many, they end up living out their "golden years" in pain and anguish. Most people can use SAMe supplements to beat their arthritis and associated problems.
SAMe Treats the Cause, Not Just the Symptoms
Part of the problem is rooted in how modern allopathic medicine is focused on treating the symptoms of degenerative diseases, not the cause. It is well-known by doctors and pharmaceutical company researchers that the main forms of arthritis often involve a progressive breakdown in connective tissues, with a decrease in connective tissue formation. The end result is a progressive breakdown of the tissues forming joints and holding them together.
Until recently, doctors did not prescribe medications or nutritional products to nourish connective tissues with the intent of rebuilding them and slowing down connective tissue breakdown (the cause). Instead, they prescribed drugs to treat symptoms such as pain and inflammation. These types of drugs usually cause side effects, which may lead to additional problems such as gastrointestinal damage. In the process of relieving some pain and inflammation these drugs may also actually worsen the arthritic condition.
It's not surprising that people with arthritis and other degenerative diseases, like diabetes and coronary heart disease, have taken it upon themselves to seek alternative and complementary therapies. Products like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate introduced to the medical community the idea that nutritional products can actually help rebuild connective tissues and slow down their destruction.
In addition to the benefits nutritional products such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate have to offer, SAMe is gaining in popularity for its dual role in treating different forms of arthritis and as an effective treatment for the depression which often accompanies these diseases. Remarkably, researchers in Europe discovered supplementing your diet with this substance may cure these conditions and prevent them from occurring in the first place. Now, its curative power is spreading to the rest of the world.
SAMe - The Early Years Treating Arthritis & Depression
Since its discovery by researcher G. L. Cantoni in 1953, medical research has demonstrated SAMe's ability to alleviate a diversity of seemingly hopeless medical conditions. Studies have shown that SAMe is useful as an antidepressant, for improving symptoms of osteoarthritis, and reducing the pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Research has also discovered that SAMe can improve age-related brain disorders and is vital to liver health. The same research shows that SAMe is both safe and effective. Of particular importance is the fact that SAMe is not a drug -- it is a naturally occurring substance your body makes, although sometimes not in quantities large enough to support optimum health.
Understanding What SAMe Is & Does
Short for its chemical name, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (can also be spelled s-adenosylmethionine), SAMe is produced by your body and takes part in many biochemical processes that help keep you healthy. SAMe is made from the amino acid methionine, using the body's primary energy molecule, ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
It is also involved in an important biochemical process known as methylation. In this capacity it acts as a methyl donor which is used by other molecules to make even more molecules. Methyl groups are part of organic compounds and can be transferred from SAMe to another biochemical to create entirely new compounds your body needs.
Technically, methyl groups consist of one carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. When the body is not making SAMe efficiently it adversely effects production of other essential substances your body needs to survive and thrive. As you will soon learn, not producing adequate amounts of SAMe often results in horrible degenerative diseases. The good news is that simply taking a SAMe supplement will safely and effectively correct these related disorders.
Overview Of The Health Benefits Of SAMe
SAMe's role in methylation is involved in a wide range of biochemical processes and important to a wide variety of biological functions. Some of these include: DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) function; manufacture of proteins; liver function; fat metabolism; the production of nervous system and brain biochemicals, such as ephedrine and dopamine; fetal development; hormone regulation; cell membrane integrity; cell reproduction; and brain and nervous system function.
Once SAMe has donated its methyl group in the process of methylation, it becomes a new substance called S-adenosyl-L-homocysteine, which goes on to manufacture an important sulfur-containing amino acid, L-cysteine. In turn, this amino acid is involved in creating one of the body's most potent antioxidants, glutathione. Glutathione and the amino acid taurine are important for liver detoxification.
SAMe donates methyl groups to molecules like norepinephrine -- making epinephrine -- and to molecules such as phosphatidylethanolamine, which eventually form phosphatidylcholine, used to make cell membranes. SAMe's methylation role is involved with RNA and DNA, thereby becoming active in the genetic copying and duplication processes.
SAMe is involved in other important metabolic pathways that are required to produce a variety of important biochemicals. For example, SAMe is needed in the production of two compounds called spermidine and spermine. These two substances are involved in cell and tissue growth, gene expression, and the formation of yet another compound called MTA (methylthioadenosine). MTA helps to control pain and inflammation. In this way, SAMe indirectly controls levels of pain and inflammation in the body, giving it clinically proven analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects with few if any minor side effects.
SAMe is also involved in homocysteine metabolism and new studies indicate that it can play a role in maintaining normal levels of homocysteine, which, when elevated, can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. High homocysteine, or hyperhomocysteinemia, is linked to a variety of diseases, including: atherosclerosis, which leads to heart attack and stroke; blood clots and other vascular diseases; neural tube defects and spontaneous abortion; depression and other cognitive dysfunction; and Alzheimer's disease. Therefore, SAMe may be important to promoting and maintaining cardiovascular health, as well as the main beneficial effects to be explained.
SAMe Health Benefits In Detail
Due to its diversified roles in the body, research conducted over the past 5 decades has found that taking SAMe can be beneficial for treating primarily three common degenerative conditions:
Keep in mind that treatment of medical conditions requires medical supervision and people should not stop taking their medication without the approval of their doctor. In many cases, SAMe can be taken safely along with other medications, as determined by their doctor. As people start to see improvements they can decide with their doctor whether or not to reduce the drugs they are taking.
In this way, think of SAMe as part of a nutritional therapy program to complement a drug therapy program. The following is, therefore, for information purposes only and will serve to acquaint you with some of the main benefits of SAMe on the medical conditions listed above.
SAMe & Arthritis
Although the term literally means joint inflammation, arthritis really refers to a group of more than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions that can cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints. Certain conditions may affect other parts of the body, such as the muscles, bones and some internal organs and can result in debilitating, and sometimes life-threatening, complications. If left untreated, arthritis can cause irreversible damage to the joints.
The two most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's own immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (cell lining the inside of joints). This chronic disabling disease causes pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of function in the joints.
Osteoarthritis (also referred to as degenerative joint disease) results from the wear and tear of life, which causes physical damage to the joints and surrounding tissues leading to pain, tenderness, swelling and decreased function. Initially, osteoarthritis is non-inflammatory and its onset is subtle and gradual, usually involving one or only a few joints. The joints most often affected are the knee, hip and hand.
Pain is the earliest symptom, usually made worse by repetitive use. Other risk factors include joint trauma, obesity and repetitive joint use. Osteoarthritis can be a byproduct of aging with its associated decrease in the body's ability to renew normal collagen, and/or from a more direct cause, such as excessive use of a joint.
Exercise & Arthritis
Proper exercises performed on a regular basis can be an important part of arthritis treatment from some patients. Years ago doctors advised no exercise, fearing that activity would cause more damage and inflammation. However, modern research has found that not exercising causes weak muscles, stiffer joints, reduced mobility and lost vitality.
Regular exercise and moderate physical activity are beneficial in decreasing fatigue, strengthening muscles and bones, increasing flexibility and stamina, improving cardiovascular health, and promoting a general sense of well-being. The amount and form of exercise should depend on which joints are involved, the amount of inflammation, how stable the joints are and whether a joint replacement procedure has been done. A proper program will usually require working with a physical therapist, under close doctor supervision.
Three Main Types Of Exercise For People With Arthritis Include:
- Range-of-motion exercises, which involve moving a joint as far as it will comfortably go and then stretching it a little further to increase and maintain joint mobility, decrease pain and improve joint function. Range-of-motion exercises can usually be performed every other day.
- Strengthening exercises involve resistance exercises to buildup muscle tissues and stabilize weak joints. Strength exercises are usually performed a few times per week or more depending on your condition.
- Endurance or aerobic exercises include walking, swimming, and bicycling for 20 minutes or more at a time. Aerobic exercises tone up the body, but, in particular, strengthen the circulatory system, heart and lungs. This type of exercise should be done for 20 or more minutes a day, three or more times a week, as your condition permits.
SAMe Scores High In Combating Osteoarthritis
The benefits of SAMe for alleviating some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis are verified in several medical studies performed on humans. In fact, SAMe's role in the promotion of joint health became apparent during initial research on depression, which led to studies on SAMe's effects on treating osteoarthritis and other conditions.
SAMe has been used in over a dozen studies conducted on more than 22,000 people to determine its beneficial effects on people suffering from osteoarthritis.
For example, in 1985 a team of researchers, lead by S. Glorioso, published the results from a randomized, double-blind, multi-center clinical trial that examined the effects of SAMe versus ibuprofen. The study examined the effects of SAMe in 150 patients with hip and/or knee osteoarthritis. For thirty days both compounds were administered by mouth at the rate of 400 milligrams taken three times per day. There were many more complaints in the ibuprofen group when compared to the group of patients taking SAMe. The researchers concluded that SAMe was slightly superior to ibuprofen in the management of pain in these subjects.
Studies Show That SAMe Is Better and Safer Than the Non-steroidal, Anti-inflammatory Drug, Naproxen
In a medical study, SAMe demonstrated that it is superior to the non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) known as naproxen. This double-blind, placebo-controlled study using 734 subjects examined the benefits of these compounds for those suffering from osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, spine and hands. (In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study neither the patients nor the clinicians providing the medication are aware if they are administering SAMe or a placebo. Using a double-blind, placebo-controlled study eliminates psychological bias that might occur if the patients or experimenters knew what the patients were taking -- SAMe, naproxen or placebo.) The oral dose of SAMe was 1,200 milligrams per day: two, 200 milligram tablets taken three times per day.
The naproxen group took 750 milligrams daily, 250 milligrams, three times per day. Both compounds proved more effective than the placebo in reducing pain; however, SAMe was better tolerated by the study subjects than was naproxen. There was no difference between SAMe and the placebo in the number of side effects, gastric complaints being the most common of side effects. Some of the benefits observed from the SAMe group include: improved ability to stand up from a seat; improved walking; improved walking up stairs; reduced day pain; and overall improvements in functionality. The researchers concluded that because of SAMe's analgesic properties and lack of major side effects, it deserved to be ranked among the most adequate treatments for the medical management of osteoarthritis.
One study, conducted by B. Konig and coworkers in Germany, examined the long-term effects of taking SAMe in patients with osteoarthritis. This study lasted for two years. Patients received 600 milligrams of SAMe daily, taken as 200 milligram tablets, three times per day. Researchers noted changes in symptoms relating to abnormalities of the knee, hip, cervical spine and dorsal/lumbar spine. The severity of morning stiffness, pain at rest and pain on movement was assessed throughout the study period. Improvements in all the symptoms related to osteoarthritis were improved significantly.
SAMe also improved the depressive feelings associated with osteoarthritis and was well tolerated. Most side effects disappeared during the course of therapy, and no adverse effects were recorded during the last six months of the treatment period. The researchers concluded that SAMe is an innovative alternative to the drugs currently used in the treatment of patients with osteoarthritis.
These are just a few of the many studies reporting the beneficial effects taking SAMe has for people with osteoarthritis. Studies have been conducted with as many as 20,641 subjects. In this large-scale study, SAMe was effective in reducing symptoms of osteoarthritis in about 95% of the patients tested. Side effects were few, and when they did occur were mostly related to gastrointestinal upset. The researchers used different dosages of SAMe during the eight-week study period: 1,200 milligrams per day during week one, 800 milligrams per day during week two, and 400 milligrams per day during weeks three to eight.
Most People With Arthritis Need to Take SAMe
For people with osteoarthritis taking SAMe is a must. In addition to taking SAMe there are a number of other supplement products and botanicals that have been shown to reduce the pain and immobility induced by osteoarthritis. Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate have received international acclaim for their clinically proven beneficial effects. Botanical extracts such as St. John's wort, Boswellia serrata, devil's claw and curcumin have also been shown to help reduce the pain and/or depression associated with osteoarthritis. A newcomer, Methyl-sulfonyl-methane (MSM) is also showing promise for osteoarthritis sufferers. There is no reason to try only one approach.
SAMe can be safely taken along with any one of these compatible supplements. You can consider starting a joint health promotion supplement plan by taking SAMe along with glucosamine. Then, include some of the other products on an as needed basis, depending on how improvements are progressing. This is why it is important to work closely with a doctor, who will help monitor how someone responds to this nutritional course of treatment and guide them to try other products as determined by the specific medical condition.
Author: Daniel Gastelu, M.S., MFS
Reprinted with Permission. Copyright 2004 Daniel Gastelu. All rights reserved. This article is not intended to replace medical advice; consult your doctor for all matters related to your health.