We Know: All About SAM-e


What is SAM-e?

SAM-e is the short name for S-adenosyl methionine, an enzyme that metabolizes in the liver and is supposed to help with a variety of physical problems such as liver damage caused by alcoholism, osteoporosis, and even mood disorders. SAM-e is sold as a dietary supplement, and is therefore not regulated as a drug by the FDA. That means it does not have to pass the FDA's stringent safety tests in order to be marketed.


What Should I Watch for when Buying SAM-e?

SAM-e has to be sold in a stable salt form, but is still prone to degradation; if you buy it, make sure you get SAM-e that has recently been stocked by the store, not a bottle that's been sitting on the shelves for weeks. Side effects reported mostly consist of gastrointestinal distress, but some people with a history of bipolar disorder may be at risk for developing manic symptoms. A therapeutic dose ranges from 800 mg to 1600 mg per day.


Why Should I Use SAM-e?

There are a number of clinical trials that indicate that SAM-e does indeed have benefits such as those described. Because of enzymatic processes we don't understand, SAM-e is beneficial to people suffering from osteoarthritis or who are trying to prevent the onset of osteoarthritis, like athletes. It may also help with certain types of depression and liver disease.

What are SAM-e's Risks?

The first thing you should consider prior to taking SAM-e is that it is unregulated by the FDA, and may carry risks unknown today simply because it has not been subject to the FDA's rigorous safety trials. It is known that SAM-e can cause gastrointestinal distress. It may increase the risk of heart disease. Like any other substance put into your body, SAM-e can act as a poison just as easily as it can act as a cure.

SAM-e increases your risk of heart disease because it breaks down into homocysteine, which has been shown to contribute to heart disease over time. Properly formulated with B-complex vitamins, however, SAM-e's homocystene is recycled back into itself or another beneficial substance called glutathione.

In other words, you can help negate at least one side effect of SAM-e by taking vitamin B complex supplements. You might not have been told this in the health store when buying SAM-e, and that's why you should always approach supplements like this with caution.

What Is SAM-e beneficial for?

SAM-e has shown some promise in treating:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Some mood affective disorders like seasonal depression
  • Other diseases involving cartilage damage
  • In Europe, it's prescribed to treat liver disease

Where Has SAM-e Been Ineffective?

SAM-e is not the miracle drug it's sometimes hyped as. Though it does have effects on about thirty-five different biochemical processes, it does not have any beneficial effect at all on some of the most well-advertised diseases it is purported to treat, such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Liver damage
  • General prevention; because SAM-e just supplements something normally found in the body, a healthy person taking it will see no benefit.

If you do have depression, you should talk to a doctor prior to taking SAM-e; you may need a different treatment. And if you have bipolar symptoms, SAM-e can actually make you worse. If you have joint pain, you should make certain with your doctor that it's arthritis prior to taking it. Never give up your regular prescribed medications in favor of SAM-e without clearing it first with your doctor.

Most importantly, if you try SAM-e, make sure you take a multivitamin, particularly one rich in vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid. And eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for other substances that help SAM-e work properly.

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