SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine) for liver disease

Here’s an excerpt from the New York Buyers’ Club guide to using nutritional supplements in the management of liver disease. This entry deals with SAMe, which you’ll also find discussed on this Blog for its use as an anti-depressant. (SAMe is currently the subject of a multi-year National Institutes of Health study of depression at Massachusetts General and Butler Hospitals.)

See also the NYBC entry on SAMe, which explains why it may be a good idea to use this supplement together with vitamins B6, B12, folic acid and, possibly, betaine (TMG).

 S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe). SAMe is an amino acid which helps in the manufacture of the “master antioxidant” glutathione in the liver. It appears to help cell membranes function normally, and assists the liver with detoxification (removal of toxins such as ethanol and pesticides from the system). SAMe can help to normalize bile secretion by the liver, a process commonly affected in chronic liver diseases. Interestingly, in several European studies of people living with hepatitis B or C, it has also been shown to help reduce jaundice, fatigue, and chronic skin irritation and itching, while also lowering liver enzymes and bilirubin levels. Dosages of SAMe in these studies were either 800 mg given intravenously or 800 to 1,600 mg given orally. No significant side effects were reported in any of the studies with SAMe in chronic liver disease.

As SAMe’s mechanism of action in the liver has become better understood by researchers, it’s been used to treat people with alcohol-induced damage to the liver. Basically, SAMe raises levels of the key antioxidant glutathione, which acts in the body to eliminate toxins such as ethanol and other poisons. In this way, SAMe can address cirrhosis and hepatitis stemming from alcohol abuse.

Other recent investigations have suggested that SAMe may play a role in preventing liver cancer, since it seems to have the ability to induce the death of cancerous liver cells. See, for example: Pascale RM, Simile MM, De Miglio MR, Feo F. Chemoprevention of hepatocarcinogenesis: S-adenosyl-L-methionine. Alcohol. 2002 Jul;27(3):193-8.


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