Our expert says:
Hi Mob, thank you for the question.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM, or dimethylsulfone) is an organosulfur compound and is promoted as a natural source of sulfur by the supplement and health food industry, suggesting that people are deficient in sulfur intake. However, protein in the diet is an abundant source of sulfur, which is contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine. MSM is sold as a dietary supplement that is marketed with a variety of claims and is commonly used (often in combination with glucosamine and/or chondroitin) for helping to treat or prevent osteoarthritis.
Clinical evidence for the usefulness of MSM is limited to animal studies and four published clinical studies in humans. These pilot studies of MSM have suggested some benefits, particularly for treatment of osteoarthritis. Further studies would be needed to test the usefulness of the chemical as a medical therapy.
After several reports that MSM helped arthritis in animal models, a double-blind, placebo-controlled study suggested that 1500 mg per day MSM (alone or in combination with glucosamine sulfate) was helpful in relieving symptoms of knee osteoarthritis Kim et al. then conducted a double-blind clinical trial of MSM for treatment of patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. Twenty-five patients took 6 g/day MSM and 25 patients took a placebo for 12 weeks. Ten patients did not complete the study, and intention to treat analysis was performed. Patients who took MSM had significantly reduced pain and improved physical functioning, without major adverse events.
No evidence of a more general anti-inflammatory effect was found, as there were no significant changes in two measures of systemic inflammation: C-reactive protein level and erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The authors cautioned that this short pilot study did not address the long-term safety and usefulness of MSM, but suggested that physicians should consider its use for certain osteoarthritis patients, and that long-term studies should be conducted.
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