What is SAM-E and is it an alternative treatment for depression? How does SAM-E work?
Symptoms of depression include:
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.
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
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 is particularly important for the liver because glutathione is synthesized from it. Glutathione is crucial for liver function. A good portion of liver SAM-E is turned into glutathione. Glutathione is the liver's natural antioxidant.
SAM-E has many other beneficial uses for several wide-ranging conditions.
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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. 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.
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