SAM-e: From Europe, with Love
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An antidepressant that also eases arthritis and detoxifies the body? That's what some researchers are saying about SAM-e, a substance which recently gained public attention in the United States because of its use abroad and many positive studies.

SAM-e is perhaps best known for its use as an antidepressant. Studies have shown that it may work as well as the traditional tricyclic class of antidepressants, but it also works faster and possibly with fewer side effects.

Italian researchers have shown that SAM-e may be as effective for treating osteoarthritis as the popular anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve). And because it's a naturally occurring molecule found in virtually all body tissues and fluids, it tends to cause fewer side effects than synthesized drugs. It may also inhibit leukotrienes, a substance that regulates inflammation.

SAM-e also has been shown to improve the condition of people with liver-function problems such as stoppage of bile flow (also known as cholestasis). Bile helps the liver break down poisonous chemicals. SAM-e is believed to promote liver-cell secretion, which in turn increases bile production. It may also prevent or reverse liver damage due to alcohol, acetaminophen, steroid drugs, and lead. And in August 1998, SAM-e was designated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as an "orphan drug" for the treatment of AIDS-related myelopathy (a disease of the spinal cord).

Produced primarily by the liver, SAM-e plays an important role in the building of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Low levels of these neurotransmitters are linked to depression. SAM-e also is a building block for cysteine, glutathione, and taurine -- potent natural antioxidants produced within the body. It also promotes the creation of compounds essential for proper cell growth. From these varied functions come SAM-e's many different uses.

Potential uses of SAM-e include the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, migraine headaches, sleep irregularities, alcoholism, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy, and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

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