Role of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in the treatment of depression:
a review of the evidence

by
Mischoulon D, Fava M.
Harvard Medical School,
Depression Clinical and Research Program,
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.
Am J Clin Nutr 2002 Nov;76(5 Suppl):1158S-61S


ABSTRACT

Major depression remains difficult to treat, despite the wide array of registered antidepressants available. In recent years there has been a surge in the popularity of natural or alternative medications. Despite this growing popularity, there is limited evidence for the effectiveness of many of these natural treatments. S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) is one of the better studied of the natural remedies. SAMe is a methyl donor and is involved in the synthesis of various neurotransmitters in the brain. Derived from the amino acid L-methionine through a metabolic pathway called the one-carbon cycle, SAMe has been postulated to have antidepressant properties. A small number of clinical trials with parenteral or oral SAMe have shown that, at doses of 200-1600 mg/d, SAMe is superior to placebo and is as effective as tricyclic antidepressants in alleviating depression, although some individuals may require higher doses. SAMe may have a faster onset of action than do conventional antidepressants and may potentiate the effect of tricyclic antidepressants. SAMe may also protect against the deleterious effects of Alzheimer disease. SAMe is well tolerated and relatively free of adverse effects, although some cases of mania have been reported in bipolar patients. Overall, SAMe appears to be safe and effective in the treatment of depression, but more research is needed to determine optimal doses. Head-to-head comparisons with newer antidepressants should help to clarify SAMe's place in the psychopharmacologic armamentarium.


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