SAMe supplement — What is it?

Originally Published: May 9, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: October 17, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I would like to know about the supplement: Sam-e. What can you tell me?

Dear Reader,

SAMe, also known as SAM-e, is short for S-adenosylmethionine and occurs naturally in the body. It’s formed from the amino acid methionine and the nucleotide adenosine triphosphate, more commonly known as ATP. SAMe works by donating the needed methyl groups for many of the essential reactions that occur in the body. Though SAMe has been used as a prescription medication since 1979, in 1999, it was also made available as a dietary supplement. Some evidence suggests that SAMe shows promise in treating a wide range of conditions from depression and other psychiatric illnesses to osteoarthritis. There have been other studies that have suggested that it may be useful as a treatment for other conditions including liver problems, premenstrual disorders, and fibromyalgia, though more research is needed. SAMe can be taken either orally or through injections in the muscle given by qualified and trained medical professionals. Since limited research exists on the effectiveness of SAMe, consulting with your health care provider before making the decision to take SAMe is recommended.

Side-effects of taking SAMe may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, and dry mouth. Some caution is recommended for individuals who have bipolar disorder or Parkinson’s disease as it can make symptoms more severe. Additionally, safety of this supplement for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe kidney or liver disease is unknown at this time. As noted above, your health care provider can help you to decide if SAMe will be useful to treat your specific condition, and if so, recommend the proper dosage and method of administration, and address any side effects experienced if you end up taking SAMe.

If you’re interested in taking SAMe that is sold as a dietary supplement, keep in mind that supplements and herbs aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there are no guarantees that what you buy actually contains what is labeled on the bottle. Unlike prescription or OTC medications, there are also no guarantees as to the purity, strength, efficacy, or safety of the product. So, even though products like SAMe may sound like a good idea, take the time to talk with your health care provider and to make an informed decision about your health!

Alice

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