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What Is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) All About And How Does It Relate To Nutrition?

Hailed as a great advance in nutritional science by some experts, the substance methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is said by many in the supplement industry to be one of the most versatile and beneficial of all nutrients. It's also one of the most often overlooked. In spite of the fact that sulfur is the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies, sulfur supplementation has never received the attention it merits.

Let's take a closer look at what MSM is...

What Exactly is MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane)?

This element is found in every cell of every plant and every animal. Sulfur makes up 0.25% of human body weight. However neither plants nor animals can use elemental sulfur directly. Sulfur is not easily available to living organisms in its inorganic form.

MSM is a naturally-occurring nutrient found in normal human diets. It gets into the diet through the sulfur cycle. For example, ocean plankton release sulfur compounds which rise into the ozone where ultra-violet light makes MSM and DMSO. DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide, is a precursor to MSM. MSM and DMSO return to the surface of the earth in rain. Plants concentrate MSM and return it to the earth and the sea. Evaporation into the air results in their return to the earth.

How Does MSM Relate to Nutrition? In Other Words, How Does MSM Work in Our Bodies?

Picture it this way... The body is continuously at work replacing old, worn out cells with new ones. The process goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without stop. When all the raw materials needed for cell-building are available, it is a very efficient process. When there are deficiencies, the new cells may be weak, rigid or deformed.

When you understand that sulfur is a basic component of the proteins that form our organs and muscles, you realize that one of the most important raw materials for building healthy new cells is the form of organic sulfur known as methylsuflonylmethane (MSM).

Sulfur has an indirect importance, because sulfur compounds play a role in many body organs and systems.

Methylsulfonylmethane MSM is the primary metabolite of DMSO in humans, and is also a metabolite of sulfur-containing amino acids.

MSM is believed to support healthy muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is also believed to normalize pressure inside cells and remove toxins from cells. Insulin synthesis depends upon sulfur.

There is a positive synergistic effect on building healthier cells when MSM is available in the body in sufficient quantities in combination with vitamin C. The new cells are more pliable and permeable, allowing fluids to pass through the tissue more easily. Internally this means more efficient elimination of toxins, a reduction in inflammation and pain - so you feel better. On the outside it shows up as a softer, smoother complexion, stronger hair and nails - so you look better.

Beyond that, sulfur is crucial to many of the vitamins, enzymes, hormones and antibodies that keep us alive and healthy. Everything from our muscles and organs to our skin and bones relies on organic sulfur in some way.

Without proper levels of MSM, our bodies are unable to build good healthy cells, which can lead to problems such as lost flexibility, scar tissue, wrinkles, varicose veins, hardened arteries, damaged lung tissues, dry cracking skin, digestive disorders, joint problems, and inability to defend against allergic reactions to food, animals and plants.

New MSM (MethylSulfonylMethane) Study

To give you an idea of how new MSM is to the nutritional sciences community, for the first time ever, a study on methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) was published in a medical journal in the April 2002 issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

The study was conducted by the GENESIS Center for Integrative Medicine and the American Institute for Biosocial and Medical Research. It details how MSM, a form of organic sulfur, helps people with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR), which is commonly known as hay fever. Fifty people participated in the study. They were given 2,600 mg per day of MSM for 30 days. Within the first week, these participants showed significant signs of improvement, which continued to strengthen as the study proceeded.

Whole Food Sources of MSM

Meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products such as yogurt are the main sources of dietary sulfur. For the vegetarians and juicers among us, sunflower seeds, cabbage, onions, garlic, lentils, and soybeans also contain fairly high levels of sulfur... however, it is important to note that a large amount of the sulfur value in plant based foods is lost in washing, cooking and/or steaming... and, of course, MSM levels decline noticeably with age. Drinking cabbage juice (about one quarter cabbage juice mixed with another juice such as celery, carrot, or apple) and juices containing small amounts of garlic and onion will help boost your sulfur intake.

Sidenote: Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) should NOT to be confused with sulforaphane which experts believe can be a strong cancer inhibitor. Interestingly, did you know that broccoli sprouts contain 20 to 50 times more sulforaphane than the average adult broccoli plant? In three days you can raise a crop of broccoli sprouts containing as much sulforaphane as an acre of broccoli would yield in a year. Imagine that!

methylsulfonylmethane

References:
Baker, DH., "Utilization of isomers and analogs of amino acids and other sulfur-containing compounds." Progress Food Nutr Sci. 1986; (10): 133-78.
Darr, Douglas, Ph.D., "Vitamin C: Topical Skin Protector", The Nutrition Report, July 1992;10(7):49-9, 56. Darr, D., et al, "Topical Vitamin C and E Protect Skin", The Nutrition Report, September 1993;66 / "Effectiveness of a Combination of Vitamins C and E in Inhibiting UV Damage to Porcine Skin", Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1993;100:597.

Darr, D., et al, "Topical Vitamin C Protects Skin", The Nutrition Report, November 1992;10(11):84 / "Topical Vitamin C Protects Porcine Skin From Ultraviolet Radiation-Induced Damage", British Journal of Dermatology, 1992;127:247-253.

Henson, D.E., et al, "Does Vitamin C Protect Against UVA and UVB?", Patient Care, May 30, 1992;14,17 / "Biological Functions in Relation to Cancer", Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 1991;83:847-550.

Herschler, RJ, "Methylsulfonylmethane and methods of use." United States patent 4,296,130; October 20, 1981.

Herschler, RJ, "Dietary and pharmaceutical uses of methylsulfonylmethane and compositions comprising it." United States patent 4,514,421; April 30, 1985.

Herschler, RJ, "Methylsulfonylmethane in dietary products." United States patent 4,616,039; October 7, 1986. Jacob, SW and Herschler, RJ, "Introductory remarks; dimethylsulfoxide after twenty years." Ann NY Acal Sci. 1983; (411): xiii-xvii. Pearson, TW, Dawson, HJ, and Lackey, HB, "Natural occurring levels of dimethylsulfoxide in selected fruits, vegetables, grains and beverages." Am Chemical Soc 1981.