What is SAMe (S-adenosyl L-methionine) and What are the Benefits?
By Amy Sunderman, MS, RD
S-adenosyl L-methionine has many names and abbreviations like s-adenosyl methionine, sam-e and many more. But to keep things short and sweet (and avoid a whole lot of Latin,) you may have heard it called SAMe (pronounced “Sammy.”)
But what is SAMe or s-adenosyl methionine—other than something with way too many syllables?
If you’re ready to meet your newest mental support hero, SAMe may be just the nutrient you’ve been looking for.
What is SAMe?
SAMe, or SAM-e is a molecule that starts out as an amino acid called methionine and is bound to an ATP molecule, which is found in foods and is metabolized by the liver. SAMe can also be synthesized and used as supplements for those who may not create enough on their own and get enough in their diet. SAMe is a methyl-donor, meaning it shares methyl groups with other molecules in the body. Methyl groups are needed to accelerate or maintain reactions in the body necessary for homeostasis.
SAMe functions in multiple ways in the body from formation to breakdown of proteins, hormones and more. This compound is involved in one of the final steps of serotonin and dopamine production called methylation and is usually taken as a supplement in order to help with promoting a healthy mood and joint health.
What Does SAMe Do?
This nutrient is used for an array of wellness needs—however the two most common and researched uses are joint health and emotional support.
One of the most common uses for SAMe is to support a healthy mood. As a naturally occurring compound, s-adenosyl methionine may help promote mental wellness and a healthy mood.1 According to Dr. James Lake, MD, SAMe works by acting as a methyl donor for many neurotransmitters and promotes serotonin and dopamine production. Studies suggest that the action behind its mood-supporting abilities may be an ability to pass through a semi-permeable membrane around the brain called the blood-brain barrier (BBB.)2
Another main use for SAMe is for joint health. By supporting healthy collagen, SAMe may promote joint comfort and mobility.3 While additional studies are needed to determine long-term effectiveness, s-adenosyl l-methionine has shown promising effects for maintaining healthy joints.4
How to Take SAMe
SAMe is created from an amino acid called methionine, which is found in many food sources. However, because SAMe is prevalent in the body’s cells, functioning as a donor of methyl groups in over 100 different reactions, it’s important to provide the body with an adequate amount.
The most common form of this supplement is SAMe capsules or tablets. However, dosage varies depending on which wellness benefit you’re looking for. For mood and mental health, the recommended dose ranges from 800-1,600 mg separated throughout the day while joint health dosage ranges from 600-1,200 mg.5,6
The best rule of thumb is to always check with your doctor before starting SAMe, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, taking antidepressant medication or if you have bipolar disorder.
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like The Link Between Food and Mood and Your Top 4 Joint Allies. Sign up for Sign up for Swanson Health emails to be the first to know about new articles and our best promotions.
About Amy Sunderman, MS, RD
Director of Science & Innovation, Registered Dietitian, Swanson Health
Amy is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author with over 20 years of experience in the supplement industry. Amy is passionate about dietary supplements and the health benefits they offer. She enjoys working to find novel nutritional ingredients with strong clinical research behind them to drive innovation and provide health-promoting products to consumers.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
1. Bressa. SAMe as antidepressant: meta-analysis of clinical studies. Acta Neurol Scand 1994:Suppl. 154:7-14
2. Bottiglieri, et al. Cerebrospinal fluid S-Adenosylmethionine in depression and dementia: effects of treatment with parenteral and oral SAMe. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 1990;53:1096-1098
3. Padova. S-Adenosylmethionine in the Treatment of Osteoarthritis. American Journal of Medicine Volume 83 pg 60
4. Najm, W. I., Reinsch, S., Hoehler, F., Tobis, J. S., & Harvey, P. W. (2004). S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe) versus celecoxib for the treatment of osteoarthritis symptoms: a double-blind cross-over trial. [ISRCTN36233495]. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 5, 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-5-6
5. Same: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-786/same
6. Ravindran AV, Balneaves LG, Faulkner G, Ortiz A, McIntosh D, Morehouse RL, Ravindran L, Yatham LN, Kennedy SH, Lam RW, MacQueen GM, Milev RV, Parikh SV; CANMAT Depression Work Group. Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments (CANMAT) 2016 Clinical Guidelines for the Management of Adults with Major Depressive Disorder: Section 5. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Treatments. Can J Psychiatry. 2016 Sep;61(9):576-87. doi: 10.1177/0706743716660290. Epub 2016 Aug 2. PMID: 27486153; PMCID: PMC4994794.