The US government has issued a report lauding a dietary supplement as being equally as efficacious as pharmaceutical drugs. After a meta-analysis of 102 human clinical studies, the US Department of Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality concluded that S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) is as effective as prescription antidepressants, fights osteoarthritis pain as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and helps some liver conditions.
SAM-e is a natural compounds found in every human cell and involved in more than 35 biochemical processes in the body. Low levels of SAM-e in the body have been correlated with depression.
In 1998, SAM-e was the leading antidepressant in Italy, and is available as a prescription medication in 14 European countries.
Ironically, just as SAM-e seems to be catching on in the US, its usage in Europe is dropping as pharmaceutical use picks up.
"Now that Prozac is generic, it's cheaper than SAM-e," said Marshall Fong, who introduced the supplement to the US market on behalf of manufacturer Pharmavite in 1998. "But the biggest thing is you avoid side effects of the drugs, like mind fog, sexual dysfunction and weight gain."
Fong said that for severely depressed people, SAM-e begins working within four to seven days, unlike its drug counterparts, which take effect in four to six weeks.