Biologists Warn About Toxic SAMe ‘Health’ Supplement | Health
A dietary supplement sold in the UK could be toxic and should not be used until it has been shown to be safe, an international group of biologists have warned.
The team, from the universities of Manchester and Kyoto, reported last week that the supplement – known as SAMe – can break down inside the body into substances that cause a wide range of medical problems, including kidney and liver damage.
Short for S-adenosylmethionine, SAMe is marketed online in the UK as an agent that can help a range of conditions, including joint and liver disease, and promote emotional well-being. But Jean-Michel Fustin, from the University of Manchester, said experiments he and his collaborators had carried out revealed that SAMe breaks down into adenine and methylthioadenosine in the body. These substances are known to be toxic, he added.
“This discovery came out of nowhere,” Fustin said last week. “When we gave the supplement to the mice, we expected them to become healthier. But instead, we found the opposite. We found that when SAMe is broken down in the body, it produces very toxic molecules, including adenine which causes gout, kidney disease and liver disease.
Fustin added that although their study – which was published in Communications Biology last week – was performed on mice, their results were relevant to humans. “We haven’t tested the supplement on men and women yet, but we added it to human cells in lab cultures and found it had the same effect as in mice.”
SAMe is not sold without a prescription in pharmacies in the UK. However, many companies offer the supplement for sale on the Internet as an agent for promoting joint comfort, liver health, mobility, and “a positive mood.” It is also marketed as a liver health promoting agent in dogs and cats on some sites.
“We studied the impact that SAMe had on the biological clocks of mice and found that instead of improving them, their biological rhythms became increasingly slow. It was clear something was wrong,” Fustin said.
Their study, which was funded by the Medical Research Council and the Japanese Society for the Advancement of Science, clearly shows that the health benefits of SAMe are questionable to say the least, Fustin added. “It’s unclear what dose of it might be safe, so there’s a good chance a safe dose will be exceeded if someone takes this supplement — if a safe dose exists at all.”
The Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency (MRHA) has been asked to respond.