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Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) - What Is It

December 10, 2010 Reviewed by Marta 1 Comment
When Colleen reviewed KaplanMD’s Day Cream, I was intrigued to find that she thought it wasn’t a patch on her Soignee Cell Rejuvenation Botanical Facial Creme with MSM. Now what might MSM be? I had no idea and so went off to find out.

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic compound that contains sulfur. Sulfur is the sixth most abundant macromineral in breast milk and exists in our cells.

MSM is promoted as a natural source of sulfur by the supplement and health food industry. The claims made for it are ambitious to say the least. MSM is said to cure arthritis, snoring, most allergies, rid us of wrinkles and make our hair grow. There are a plethora of skin creams that are based on MSM. The supposed health benefits of methylsulfonylmethane were first popularized by the book The Miracle of MSM - The Natural Solutions for Pain by Dr. Stanley W. Jacob and by Robert M Herschler, a research biochemist who holds eleven patents for MSM.

Unfortunately, the science is scant to non-existent. Results from a small 12 week pilot clinical trial, published in 2006, showed MSM improved symptoms and function for knee osteoarthritis, but long-term benefits and safety of MSM in managing osteoarthritis were not confirmed. There is nothing substantial to back up the other claims made for MSM.

Those claims include asserting that sulfur is essential for the synthesis of collagen. From there it is a short step to concluding that MSM must, ergo, be good for our aging skins as it will boost collagen production. I spent some time doing research that would connect these dots and came up with nothing. Even though sulfur is often touted as a cure for acne, it is usually combined with something else such as salicylic acid and can be more drying than anything else.

One of the key things that makes me skeptical of MSM is that it seems unlikely that we need any more of it than exists naturally in our bodies anyway. Although purveyers of MSM supplements say that most adults are deficient in MSM, there is no Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) or Daily Value established for sulfur (source).

Humans obtain it by absorbing the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine, cysteine, and cystine [8]. This is achieved by consuming adequate amounts of protein foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, nuts, and legumes). Since Americans tend to consume more protein than they need, "sulfur deficiency" is very unlikely and would not occur without obvious evidence of severe malnutrition.

Even if sulfur intake needed to be increased, it is disputed that MSM is good dietary source. Some tests have shown that most of it ends up in urine with less than 1% in serum proteins (source).

I am pleased that Colleen has found a moisturizer that she really likes. However, I have found nothing to persuade me that I should seek out an MSM cream.
  • February 3, 2011

    by bacalove

    I know that MSM is excellent if you have any arthrictic conditions. Really heals those aches and pains. Super mixed with glucosamine and chrondroitim. GNC has an excellent blend.

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