S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) is a naturally occuring compound. It is formed by the combination of ATP (adenine triphosphate) and methionine. ATP maybe familiar to you as it is the main source of energy for cells, ultimately all food is made from ATP. The speciality of SAM-e is that it can provide a methyl group for various metabolic processes (metylation). Methyl is a simple compound (made up of carbon and hydrogen) that plays a role in many metabolic processes. Methylation is essential for cell division, proper functioning of DNA, immune processes, energy production, etc.
Low SAM-e levels have been linked to the development of arthritis (osteoarthritis), depression, Alzheimer's disease and insulin resistance. Studies have reported beneficial effects on both arthritis at doses of 600-1200 mg and depression at doses of 400-600 mg. In depression, the mood-boosting effects are likely to be felt sooner, and in arthritis it may take a few weeks to take effect.
Several studies report that SAM-e can help reduce pain in people with arthritis - but not through the pathway where non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) often prescribed by doctors work, but by producing proteglycans. Proteoglycans help to replenish fluid in the joints.
In Europe, SAM-e has been used for over 30 years as an alternative treatment for various psychiatric problems (mostly depression and its associated symptoms). SAM-e can improve the well-being of people with depression, improve mood, increase mental performance and help depressed individuals regain sexual health (which can also be a symptom of depression).
So SAM is an effective mood booster and pain reliever. Use it when you have a long-term joint pain or are in a lethargic mood - you're going through a bad patch. In many cases, low mood and joint pain are interrelated and reinforce each other, so both problems can be effectively helped by this supplement.
There are insufficient studies to establish the long-term effects and tolerable upper limit of SAM-e.