MSM for Arthritis: Miracle Pill or Snake Oil?
April 7, 2000 (New York) -- When most
actors win an Oscar, they thank their friends and family along with the movie's
producers, directors, and supporting actors, but not James Coburn.
He thanked the supplement MSM for helping
him beat the pain and inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis when he nabbed the
Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in the movie Affliction in
Close to 2.5 million people have rheumatoid
arthritis, a disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining
the joint, which causes pain, warmth, redness, and swelling. The latest supplement du jour, MSM, or methyl
sulfonylmethane, is said to help a wide range of conditions, including
arthritis, allergies, and even snoring.
the early 1980s by Stanley W. Jacob, MD, and Robert Herschler, MD, of the
department of surgery at the Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, MSM
is an odorless and tasteless natural sulfur compound found in all living
things. Sulfur is needed by the body for healthy connective tissue and joint
function and has purported pain-quashing and anti-inflammatory properties.
While MSM is found in many foods, including meat, fish, certain fruit,
vegetables, and grains, it is destroyed when foods are
dietary supplements of MSM taken by Coburn and millions of
leading arthritis authorities are not convinced MSM is a miracle
quite sure how it works yet, but basic research is under way. We do know that
sulfur is very important to body tissues and that it damps down pain
impulses," Ronald M. Lawrence, MD, PhD, executive director of the Council
on Natural Nutrition in Los Angeles, tells WebMD.
the book on MSM. Literally.
An author of
The Miracle of MSM: The Natural Solution for Pain, Lawrence says he has
treated more than 6,000 patients with MSM.
In a study of
18 people with arthritis, Lawrence found an 82% improvement in pain, on
average. "A study of soccer players in Barbados is now under way that
should put to rest any disbelief," he says.
In a written
statement, the Arthritis Foundation notes that at this time, there is not
enough evidence available about MSM's effectiveness and, therefore, it is
considered an unproven remedy.
has been extensive anecdotal evidence reported and some studies, the Arthritis
Foundation is unaware of significant long-term studies involving large numbers
of patients to assess the safety and long-term benefits or harm of the
chemical, according to the statement.
Pisetsky, MD, chief of rheumatology at Duke University Medical Center in
Durham, N.C., agrees.
substances are being used as drugs and they have interactions with other
medications and can be a problem in people with conditions we don't know
about," he tells WebMD.