Gabe Mirkin, M.D.

What do you think when you hear that an over-the-counter pill helps 
to treat depression, arthritis and liver disease and is completely 
safe? It's called SAMe (pronounced "Sammy") and so far, few side 
effects have been reported from taking it.
All protein in your body is made from building blocks called amino 
acids. Of the 21 in your body, 9 are essential and must be obtained 
from the food that you eat. The other 12 are called non-essential 
because your body can make them from the essential 9. In your body, 
the essential amino acid, methionine, forms the non-essential amino 
acid, cysteine. But before it does this, methionine is converted to 
SAMe which helps form cartilage to alleviate pain in arthritis, 
raises brain levels of serotonin to treat depression, and helps the 
liver repair itself by some unknown mechanism. If you have enough of 
the vitamins folic acid, pyridoxine and B12, SAMe is recycled back 
to methionine or is converted to glutathione that helps protect your 
body from injury. If you lack B12, pyridoxine or folic acid, SAMe is 
converted to homocysteine which can cause birth defects, heart 
attacks, strokes and depression. 

With all the good news about the function of SAMe in your body, 
there is no scientific evidence that taking SAMe as a supplement has 
any benefit. It is far more important that you have enough vitamins 
B12, pyridoxine and folic acid to convert the SAMe made in your own 
body to the healthful glutathione. If you do not have enough of 
these three vitamins, SAMe is converted to the harmful homocysteine. 
Scientists do not know all the side effects of SAMe supplements and 
they have no idea whether you will be harmed years later. The 
supplement industry is not regulated so the marketers of SAMe are 
not required to answer these questions. You don't even have any way 
to know if the pills actually contain any SAMe. 

Checked 7/10/06