S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is an important physiologic agent that is involved in more than 40 biochemical reactions in the body. It functions closely with folic acid and vitamin B12 in “methylation” reactions. Methylation is the process of adding a single carbon unit (a methyl group) to another molecule. SAMe is many times more effective in transferring methyl groups than other methyl donors. Methylation reactions are critical in the manufacture of many body components, especially brain chemicals, as well as in detoxification. Not surprisingly, the principal uses for SAMe are supporting brain and liver health as well as healthy joints.
Benefits for Healthy Joints
SAMe has demonstrated impressive results in improving joint health in a variety of studies. A deficiency of SAMe in the joint tissue, just like a deficiency of glucosamine, leads to loss of the gel-like nature and shock-absorbing qualities of cartilage. As a result, cartilage can degenerate, leading to pain and inflammation.
In double-blind trials, SAMe has demonstrated similar reductions in pain scores and clinical symptoms as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, nabumetone, celecoxib and piroxicam. But unlike drugs, SAMe appears to produce its benefits simply by delivering nutritional support to cartilage cells, and thereby helping them function more effectively.
Two new studies compared SAMe (1,200 mg a day) to the drugs nabumetone (Relafene, 1,000 mg a day) and celecoxib (Celebrex, 200 mg a day) in patients showing symptoms of cartilage degeneration in the knees. In the first study, SAMe was shown to be equal to nabumetone in effectively reducing pain intensity. In the study comparing SAMe to Celebrex, SAMe was slower to act, but in the end was judged as effective as celecoxib, without the side effects.
Given the known risks for significant side effects with the use of NSAIDs, the results from these new studies provide additional evidence that a natural approach that focuses on delivering improved nutrition to joint tissues is a more rational approach.
Kim J, Lee EY, Koh EM, et al. Comparative clinical trial of S-adenosylmethionine versus nabumetone for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis: an 8-week, multicenter, randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, Phase IV study in Korean patients. Clin Ther. 2009 Dec;31(12):2860-72.
Najm WI, Reinsch S, Hoehler F, Tobis JS, Harvey PW.S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: a double-blind cross-over trial. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2004 Feb 26;5:6.