In part two of this short series, I examine some of the evidence surrounding the use of S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) for depression. People with this debilitating condition know its consequences on quality of life, and many are searching for answers in the natural medicine world.
The problem with antidepressant drugs is that they don’t work for up to one-third of patients. Plus, up to half of patients will have a recurrence of depression while taking the drugs. They also come with side effects in many cases. For reasons like this, about 20% of depression patients use alternative medicine. One choice is SAMe.
Scientists have found that levels of both SAMe and fluid surrounding the brain are low in depressed individuals. Raising blood levels of SAMe has been proven to reduce symptoms. Here is a snapshot of many notable studies over time showing SAMe to be reasonably effective and safe.
— 1975: A study of 31 patients lasted three weeks. It tested 25 milligrams (mg) of SAMe (three times a day) versus an antidepressant. The result: SAMe had effects equal to those of the drug. No side effects were noted.
— 1990: A study of 20 patients who took antidepressants found SAMe effective for 11 people. These patients had a full antidepressant response.
— 1993: A study of 80 adult women with major depression tested 1,600 mg of SAMe a day. It lasted one month. Those with SAMe had much greater improvement than those taking placebo. Side effects were only mild.
— 1994: A one-month study of 26 patients found that 62% of those taking SAMe had significant improvement. That compares to 50% taking a mainstream drug.
— 2002: A study tested SAMe versus the drug imipramine” for four to six weeks. Results showed that the supplement and drug had similar results. SAMe won in one department: it had fewer side effects.
— 2002: Another study tested that same drug versus SAMe for one month. Again, both had similar effects on relieving depression. Once again, SAMe was better tolerated by patients.
Overall, as you can see, these are positive and encouraging results. Please note that you should never discontinue any antidepressant without consulting with your doctor.