The relationship between the supplement SAM-e and weight loss, as of May 2011, is quite speculative. SAM-e is currently used for the relief of joint pain and for people suffering from depression. Symptoms of depression include loss of appetite and rapid weight loss or binge eating and rapid weight gain. If SAM-e relieves symptoms in people who are depressed, it stands to reason that it may alleviate the tendency in depressed people to gain or lose excess amounts of weight.
SAM-e is short for S-adenosyl methionine, a molecule that is involved in the production of key compounds in the body. Although it is present in every one of your cells, the level of SAM-e in your body tends to decline as you age. High concentrations of SAM-e are found in the liver, glands and brain. Researchers speculate that SAM-e may facilitate the manufacture of brain neurotransmitters, and thus affect mood.
SAM-e and Depression
Widely used in Europe to treat depression, SAM-e has been the subject of increased research in the United States in the early years of the the 21st century. A 2010 study at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, reported by "The New York Times," found that the addition of SAM-e significantly increased the effectiveness of prescription medications for depressed patients. For patients who haven't been helped by conventional medications -- more than half of depressed people fall into this category -- the addition of SAM-e offers new hope. And it may not be necessary to use SAM-e with prescription drugs. An analysis of research on depression, conducted in 2002 by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, found that SAM-e is much more effective in treating depression than a placebo. It also worked just as well as some prescription drugs in treating depression.
Depression and Weight
A 2009 study from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that weight-loss alleviated the symptoms of depression. During a six-month program, regular patients and depressed patients modified their lifestyles and the amounts of food they were eating. Depressed patients lost a total of 8 lb. The other group lost 11 lb. Most significantly, the depressed patients who lost weight also discovered their symptoms of depression eased significantly. So depression can be attacked on two fronts. Patients can find weight loss programs that may ease their depression. And patients may benefit from taking SAM-e, which relieves depression in some people, and helps them avoid extreme overeating or under-eating as well.
There are no studies to indicate that SAM-e has a direct impact on the weight of most people. But if you are depressed and overweight, SAM-e may elevate your mood, which might help motivate you to make healthy lifestyle choices and lose weight. As the Mayo Clinic states, many people have their strongest cravings for food when they are the weakest emotionally, which would include being in a state of depression. However, if you are depressed, you should not take SAM-e without first consulting your doctor. As supplement expert and medical doctor Ray Sahelian writes, SAM-e, especially at higher doses, causes significant side effects in some people, including anxiety, restlessness, headache, insomnia, heart palpitations and upset stomach.
- Science Daily: Weight Loss Improves Mood in Depressed People, New Research Shows
- MayoClinic.com: Weight-Loss Help: Gain Control of Emotional Eating
- "The New York Times": Study Shows SAM-e May Ease Depression; Tara Parker-Pope; August 2010
- Dr. Ray Sahelian: SAM-e Supplement Benefits for Depression
- Healing Daily: What is SAM-e?