What is SAM-E and is it an alternative treatment for depression? How does SAM-E work?
Symptoms of depression include:
S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-E) is an amino acid that is used in the treatment of many conditions including depression, liver disease, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, migraine headaches, and to increase bile flow. Other names for SAM-E include: S-Adensyl Methionine, L-Methionine, Adomet, and Ademethionine.
Over 150,000 Americans and many thousands of Europeans use SAM-E supplements regularly. SAM-E was discovered in Italy about 5 decades ago (Cantoni, 1952). However, the first clinical study of SAM-E's use for depression was not completed until the 1970s (Agnoli et al., 1976). At that time there were no usable oral preparations and early studies had to use intravenous [IV] and intramuscular [IM] delivery. SAM-E was first introduced into the U.S. dietary supplement market in 1999. It has been used with success to treat depression in Europe for the past 20 years. A discussion of SAM-E versus St-John's wort to treat depression can be found here.
SAM-E (also known as SAM or AdoMet) is a derivative of the amino acid, methionine. It's formed when methionine combines with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a nucleotide present in all living cells. ATP is the major source of cellular energy. The liver uses this process to make SAM-E, as much as 8 grams of it every day, when the liver is perfectly healthy. Liver disease, osteoarthritis and the overuse of prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications can diminish the body's production of SAM-E. A small amount of SAM-E is found in food, but it is highly unstable and an unreliable means of increasing blood levels.
As a methyl donor, SAM-E "donates" units called methyl groups, which contain hydrogen and carbon atoms, to other substances. This process is called methylation, and it is one way in which the body protects itself from damage on the cellular level.
SAM-E facilitates the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters
Methyl donors help to protect against cancer, heart disease, neurological disorders, and many age-related problems, and facilitate the manufacture of DNA and brain neurotransmitters. SAM-E is involved in more than 50 methylation reactions in the body, including the regulation of various hormones and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine.
Once SAM-E donates its methyl group to choline, creatine, carnitine, DNA, RNA, epinephrine, and other compounds, it is transformed into S-adenosyl-homocysteine, (SAH). SAH donates its sulfur molecule to sulfur-containing amino acids such as cysteine, from which glutathione is formed. SAH then gives up its adenosine molecule to yield homocysteine. Homocysteine is a potentially toxic amino acid and an independent risk factor for coronary disease. Folic acid, choline, or betaine can change homocysteine back to methionine in the presence of vitamin B12, or convert homocysteine into cysteine and glutathione in the presence of vitamin B6. For this reason, it is recommended to supplement your diet with vitamin B12 and B6 when taking SAM-E.
SAM-E has many other beneficial uses for several wide-ranging conditions.
I spend a lot of time searching for the best price for supplements online. You will find the lowest price on the internet for high quality Double Strength (400mg) SAM-E here.
For best results it is recommended to also take TMG (trimethylglycine) 500mg-2000mg twice a day (which increases the metabolism of SAM-E), as well as co-factors such as folic acid up to 1mg/day, vitamin B6 up to 100mg/day, and vitamin B12 1mg/day. The best price I'm aware of on the internet for high quality B vitamins is here. I also like Puritan Pride's special "Buy 1 Get 2 FREE" promotions on vitamin B.
These nutrients will prevent SAM-E from being metabolized into harmful homocysteine and will help re-methylate homocysteine back to SAM-E, so they may be useful in those who want to reduce the dose of SAM-E, and still get the full benefits.
The medical establishment in the U.S. would like to have you believe that SSRIs, such as Paxil, with their often severe side-effects, are the answer to depression. But that is not necessarily so. Many people who have tried to "get off" Paxil can attest to the dramatic withdrawal symptoms which often accompany "Paxil withdrawal", in spite of the manufacturer's claim that Paxil is not "habit-forming". There are alternatives to the anti-depressant drugs pushed by psychiatrists in the U.S., and SAM-E is one of them. Aerobic exercise will also go a long way toward improving your brain chemistry.
You can find out more about the medical establishment in the United States and how public relations firms shape and manipulate the public's beliefs on the "Why you believe what you believe" page.
I discuss my "brain health" regimen in more detail here.
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