SAM-e or S-adenosylmethionine was discovered in 1952 and its popularity continues to soar. Its use is relatively new in the United States but it has been used in Europe for many years to treat arthritis and depression. SAM-e is involved in the genetic process of methylation. This process affects a number of chemical processes in the body including maintaining cells and healthy nerves, and regulating emotions and moods. SAM-e can be found in every living cell but has greater concentrations in the brain and liver.
SAM-e is used as a natural treatment for a wide range of ailments including depression, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches, atherosclerosis, cirrhosis, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. The most common uses are to treat osteoarthritis pain and depression. Many purport that SAM-e works much faster than traditional medications with fewer side effects.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a government agency which develops scientific information for other organizations conducted a search of published literature to determine SAM-e’s usefulness in treating depression, osteoarthritis, and cholestasis of pregnancy (a condition in which the flow of bile into the intestines is decreased and bile salts build up in your blood). While the AHRQ did recommend further, large scale studies, it concluded that 1) SAM-e is as effective as prescription anti-depressants; 2) SAM-e may have an impact on intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy; and 3) SAM-e is as effective for treating osteoarthritis pain as non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).
SAM-e Effects on Arthritis and Depression
There are a number of small studies examining the effectiveness of SAM-e as an anti-depressant. In one such study, The Aids Community Research Initiative of America conducted a small-scale study published in November 2004 which involved HIV positive patients diagnosed with depression. The patients were treated with SAM-e as an alternative to traditional prescription medication. The study results indicated that there was a significant reduction in acute depression after treatment. The results were evident in as little as one week.
In another study conducted by the University of California Irvine Medical Center, SAM-e was compared to Celebrex in reducing pain associated with Osteoarthritis of the knee. This study concluded that SAM-e took longer to work but was as effective as Celebrex. In the study’s discussions the reviewers noted that “Although this study was not set up to evaluate the long-term effect of SAMe, the data hints that the pain relief effect obtained with SAMe persisted even after the medication was discontinued.”
SAM-e Contraindications and Side Effects
All SAM-e is not created equal. SAM-e supplements in its many forms are made with a stabilizing compound to prevent the product from breaking down. Some brands do not have as much SAM-e as the label indicates, as they are combining the weights of the stabilizing compound and the SAM-e. If you are currently taking medication, you should consult your physician before taking any supplement, to avoid any interactions or complications.
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