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Methionine is one of the essential amino acids needed for good health but cannot be produced in the body, and so must be provided through our diet.
One of the important functions of methionine is its ability to be a supplier of sulfur and other compounds required by the body for normal metabolism and growth. Sulfur is a key element and vital to our life. Without an adequate intake of sulfur, our body will not be able to make and utilize a number of antioxidant nutrients. Methionine is also a methyl donor, capable of giving off a molecule with a single carbon atom with 3 tightly connected hydrogen atoms, called a methyl group which we need for a wide variety of chemical and metabolic reactions inside our body.
Meat, fish, and dairy products are all excellent sources of methionine. Vegetarians can obtain methionine from whole grains, but beans are a relatively poor source of this amino acid.
Together with choline, and inositol, methionine belongs to a group of compounds called lipotropics which help the liver to process fat in the body. Once in the liver, methionine is converted into SAM(s-adenosyl methionine) and SAM is therefore the metabolite of the amino acid methionine. As much as 8 grams of SAM is produced in the liver each day when conditions are ideal. However, the amount of SAM produced in the body can be reduced significantly when the liver function is compromised.
Methionine is a valuable nutritional compound that is of multiple benefits for the body. In Europe, doctors have been using it with excellent results to treat depression, inflammation, liver diseases, and certain muscle pains. Methionine is an especially important nutrient beneficial for those suffering from estrogen dominance, where the amount of estrogen in the body is excessively high when compared to its opposing hormone called progesterone. Similarly, those who are on oral contraceptives or estrogen replacement therapy will find methionine to be helpful. Since estrogen is cleared through the liver, an enhanced liver function will reduce the body’s estrogen load. Specifically, methionine converts the stronger and carcinogenic estradiol (E2) into estriol (E3) which is the “good” estrogen as compared to estradiol.
SAM, the metabolite of methionine, has many good attributes. A daily dose of up to 1600mg of SAM has been used to fight hepatitis and cirrhosis. Another major application of SAM also involves the alleviation of depression. A dose of 800-1600mg a day helps to elevate mood and provide relief to those who are clinically depressed. Both methionine and SAM have anti-inflammatory effects and are therefore used often in combination to treat osteoarthritis. A daily dose of 5g of methionine has been linked to reduced lymph rigidity and Parkinson’s disease. However, the use of SAM has not been able to reproduce similar effects. SAM however, has been of help to those who have multiple sclerosis. SAM’s anti-inflammatory properties have also proven helpful with fibromyalgia when taken at 1gram a day. In Britain, methionine as well as SAM are quite frequently used in the treatment of chronic fatigue.
Because methionine is a essential amino acid and our body is not able to produce it, we must get it from our diet. Most of us do not need to have methionine supplementation if we are in good health. However, strict vegetarians and anybody who follows a low protein diet should consider methionine supplementation. Those whose a diet high in soy should also consider methionine supplementation as soy is low in amino acids. During methionine supplementation, intake of taurine, cysteine, and other sulfur containing amino acids, as well as B6 and folic acid should also be included. Recommended dosage ranges from 500 mg to 4,000 mg in divided dosages throughout the day.
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Michael Lam, M.D., M.P.H., A.B.A.A.M., is a western trained physician specializing in nutritional and anti-aging medicine. Dr. Lam received his Bachelor of Science degree from Oregon State University, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in California. He also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health. He is board certified by the American Board of Anti-Aging Medicine where he has also served as a board examiner. Dr. Lam is a pioneer in using nontoxic, natural compounds to promote the healing of many age-related degenerative conditions. He utilizes optimum blends of nutritional supplementation that manipulate food, vitamins, natural hormones, herbs, enzymes, and minerals into specific protocols to rejuvenate cellular function.
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