Evidence of Effectiveness:
good scientific evidence supports the use of SAMe to treat osteoarthritis.
Double-blind studies involving a total of more than a thousand
participants suggest that SAMe is about as effective as standard
double-blind placebo-controlled Italian study tracked 732 people taking
SAMe, naproxen (a standard anti-inflammatory drug), or placebo. After 4
weeks, participants taking SAMe or naproxen showed about the same level of
benefit as compared with those in the placebo group.
it should be noted that the dosage of naproxen used in this study was
definitely on the low side, only 750 mg daily. This is about half the
amount most people would use for arthritis. If a normal dosage of naproxen
had been used, the therapeutic effect would probably have been greater,
and the drug might have proven more effective. Therefore, this study alone
does not prove that SAMe is as effective as conventional treatment when
taken in proper doses.
double-blind study compared SAMe with a full dosage of the
anti-inflammatory drug, piroxicam. A total of 45 individuals were followed
for 84 days. The two treatments proved equally effective. However, the
SAMe-treated individuals maintained their improvement long after the
treatment was stopped, whereas those on piroxicam quickly started to hurt
studies showed that oral SAMe has equivalent benefits to various doses of
indomethacin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
In the human body, SAM-e
works as a methyl donor, which affects more than 30 different chemical
reactions, including certain mood-enhancing brain chemicals like seratonin.
The exact mechanism in which SAMe works is not yet know. There are
many possible theories on how this may be working. A 1999 article in
Newsweek stated, "Whatever the mechanism, there is little question
that SAMe can help fight depression."
activity was first reported in 1976. Since then, several small
double-blind studies involving a total of about 175 individuals have found
oral SAMe to be an effective treatment for depression. Some of these
studies compared SAMe with placebo, while others used a control group
given another antidepressant drug.
In the last two decades,
40 clinical studies have been published with about 1400 patients.
Although the number of patients is small, the results have been
consistent. In 1994, a
psychiatrist in Rome compiled results from a dozen controlled trials and
concluded that SAM-e's effectiveness in treating depression "is
superior [to] that of placebo and comparable to that of standard...
research suggests that SAM-e may work faster than conventional
antidepressants, which often take several weeks to become effective.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine studied
eighteen patients hospitalized for depression in 1988. In this study,
intravenous SAM-e was compared to oral imipramine (Tofranil), a commonly
prescribed antidepressant. By
the end of the second week, 66% of the patients on SAM-e had improved by
at least 50%, while improvement was reported by only 22% of the imipramine
In another small study at
UCI, severely depressed patients were given either SAM-e or desipramine (a
pharmaceutical antidepressant) for four-weeks.
The SAM-e recipients showed a slightly higher response rate (62%)
compared to those on desipramine (50%).
Studies conducted thus
far seem to indicate that SAM-e may be as effective as traditional
antidepressants. However, research has revealed fewer side effects,
particularly as compared to the older drugs (tricyclics and MAO
inhibitors) commonly used before the availability of SSRIs like Prozac and
Zoloft. Reported side effects
of SAM-e have included mild stomach upset and headache, although
frequently these symptoms go away after a couple of weeks.
Those with bipolar disorder (commonly called manic depression) should
avoid SAM-e because it can induce mania in people with the disorder.
Few studies have been
conducted specifically with Fibromyalgia patients. One study of 47
Fibromyalgia patients demonstrated a significant reduction in tender
points. In this study,
patients were treated with daily intramuscular injections of 200mg of
SAM-e, in addition to taking 400mg orally.