Preserving joint health is a priority for modern men and women as they age gracefully. The typical active 50-plus American enjoys an extended youth in multiple ways. Today’s lifestyle is so replete with hobbies, growing families, vacations, and personal pursuits that no one wants to be hampered by limited mobility from cartilage deterioration.
Besides the dynamic duo of gluco-samine and chondroitin sulfate, methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM (also known as dimethylsulfone or DMSO2), has been validated by research to help preserve joint function.
MSM and Joint Function
The human joint system comprises various types, and each has its own structure. Some types of joints, such as the sutures in the skull where bones meet, are immobile. Synovial joints (e.g., knees, fingers) contain a cavity filled with synovial fluid (like motor oil) and hyaline cartilage, allowing these joints to bend with ease.
Over time, these joints may begin to wear. Osteoarthritis, the more prevalent form of joint degeneration, is caused by natural degradation of the soft cartilage, resulting in gradually increasing pain and inflammation. However, animal studies point to benefits when MSM is consumed regularly.
One Russian study on mice with spontaneous arthritis determined that MSM helped lessen the destructive damage incurred by this degenerative condition. The outcomes of two studies on mice with rheumatoid arthritis, conducted nearly 20 years apart, demonstrated that supplementation with MSM may play a positive role in rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder. A 1985 experiment revealed that MSM decreased inflammation, while a 2004 study determined that MSM tempered the immune response to rheumatoid arthritis, also decreasing arthritic swelling.
In humans, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence gathered by MSM researcher Stanley W. Jacob, MD, FACS, who, with MSM researcher and naturopathic physician Jeremy Appleton, ND, CNS, literally wrote the book on MSM. Dr. Jacob has treated thousands of patients with MSM and found it to improve the status of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Unlike glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, which have been studied rather extensively with large populations, independent clinical research on MSM’s efficacy on humans is scant. A 2004 trial investigated the effects of either glucosamine or MSM, and the combination of both, in 118 individuals with mild to moderate arthritis. Study authors concluded that the combination was most effective, showing significant improvement in symptoms over placebo. MSM also provided pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects. More recently, a pilot investigation on 50 individuals with knee osteoarthritis determined that an MSM dose of 3 grams, twice daily, lessens pain and improves physical function.
“Glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate rightfully gained a foothold, in part because there were many double-blind clinical trials that demonstrated their efficacy,” says Dr. Appleton. “The same could not be said of MSM. Apart from anecdotes, case studies, and one very questionable 1998 study written by [MSM endorser and late actor] James Coburn’s former doctor, there has been little scientific evidence of MSM’s efficacy. All of that changed recently with the publication of the first randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of MSM to be published in a major medical journal.”
MSM and Allergies
MSM may also be a suitable supplement for seasonal allergic rhinitis, which affects more than 23 million Americans each year. Researchers gave 50 subjects 2,600 mg of MSM orally per day for 30 days. After seven days, subjects reported improvements in total and upper respiratory symptoms and, after three weeks, lower respiratory symptoms improved. Once again, a naturally occurring compound demonstrates its potential for addressing more than one health issue.