L-Phenylalanine is an essential, nine-carbon amino acid and is a precursor to the amino acid tyrosine. Because tyrosine is necessary for the synthesis of proteins and the production of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, phenylalanine is an extremely important nutrient that must be obtained through the diet or supplementation.
As the building blocks of protein, amino acids are vital to health. Next to water, amino acids in the form of proteins make up the greatest portion of our body weight. They comprise tendons, muscles and ligaments; organs and glands; hair and nails; important bodily fluids, and are a necessary part of every cell in the body.
There are over 20 amino acids, separated into two categories – essential and non-essential. Essential amino acids are those that cannot be manufactured by your body, hence, it is essential that you obtain them from your diet. Non-essential amino acids can be manufactured by your body, however, your body must have the right combination of essential amino acids and supporting nutrients to optimize healthy protein maintenance, so supplementation may be desirable.
Amino acids are not only absolutely integral to life, but they can have a profound impact upon how clearly we think and how well we feel.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is a naturally occurring combination of the amino acid methionine and ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body’s primary energy molecule. In this form it is sometimes referred to as “active methionine”. Research indicates that SAMe plays a vital role in nervous system health and normal cognitive function*.
SAMe may support nervous system function by increasing the synthesis and recycling of certain neurotransmitters and enhancing the sensitivity of nerve receptors. SAMe is believed to positively effect a number of neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline and norepinephrine. Although the mechanism for SAMe's impact upon neural function is not fully understood, there is no doubt that SAMe's capacity as a methyl donor is of critical importance.
As a methyl donor SAMe assists the body in the creation of complex organic compounds necessary for normal healthy function. Your body uses these new compounds for numerous purposes, including brain function and detoxification. This process, known as methylation or transmethylation, is vital to your body’s maintenance. SAMe may be the most effective of all methyl donors discovered to date. Research has shown that SAMe is the only methyl donor with the potential to increase transmethylation in the brain, which helps to protect it from homocysteine damage as well as increasing production of glutathione, one of the body’s most effective antioxidants.
Research into the biosynthesis of SAMe has established a clear link between SAMe and folic acid, or folate. Folic Acid has been proven to provide support for healthy nervous system function and a healthy mood, and researchers believe these two nutrients work together to beneficially effect monoamine systems, which directly affect mood and cognitive function*. SAMe has also been show to improve the synthesis of phospholipids for use in the brain, probably one of the most beneficial effects SAMe has on brain health.
The benefits of SAMe extend beyond the brain and throughout the human body. For example, it may also aid in the repair of myelin, the sheath of fatty material that surrounds nerves and nerve cells everywhere in our nervous system. SAMe is found in all human tissue and organs and is available for use by your body in over 35 different biochemical reactions necessary for optimal health.
SAMe may support joint health through transulfuration, a process that takes a certain amount of sulfur from SAMe to create glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates. This enhances proteoglycan synthesis, the molecule responsible for keeping articular (joint) cartilage lubricated. As mentioned earlier, SAMe is also important for the production of glutathione, a powerful free radical scavenger that defends your body from toxic agents and is necessary for liver detoxification.
SAMe was first isolated in 1952 by G.L. Cantoni at the Laboratory of Cellular Pharmacology at the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland. Four years later, Cantoni and a co-worker found that SAMe synthesis involves methionine and ATP. They also found that it exists in the human body only temporarily, making production in a supplemental form difficult. It took nearly ten years until improvements in technology permitted SAMe research to advance. With the discovery of a method to stabilize SAMe that overcame these manufacturing problems, U.S. patents were granted to allow the production of SAMe in a stabilized form.
SAMe in its ion form as found in human cells has a very short life span and is rapidly metabolized into other necessary compounds as needed. Therefore, it must be manufactured in a stabilized form to prevent rapid degradation as a supplement. Once tableted, it must be enteric coated to preserve stability. This technology was not readily available until the 1990’s, hence SAMe’s long road to mainstream popularity. Dr. Joseph Zhou, Director of Laboratory Methods here at NOW®, is credited with significantly improving the analytical methodology used to assure potency levels in supplemental SAMe. His work is one of the reasons SAMe is available as a supplement with stable, guaranteed potency.
1) Clouatre, Dallas; All About SAMe; Avery’s FAQ Series, 1999
2) Balch, James & Phyllis; Prescription for Nutritional Healing; Avery, Penguin Putnam, 2000
3) Carney, M.W.P.; Review: Neuropharmacology of S-Adenosyl Methionine; Clinical Neuropharmacology, Vol. 9, No. 3, pp. 235-243