Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM, or dimethylsulfone) is an organosulfur compound with the formula (CH3)2SO2. It occurs naturally in some primitive plants and is present in small amounts in many foods and beverages and it is sold as a dietary supplement. MSM is a popular dietary supplement promoted for a variety of conditions including pain, inflammation, allergies, arthritis, and the maintenance of normal keratin levels in hair, skin and nails.
MSM as Dietary Sulfur
MSM serves as an important source of bioavailable dietary sulfur, an element that plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity and elasticity of connective and other tissues. It is an important component of proteins found throughout the body, such as in hair, nails, skin and tendons. Sulfur also is found in insulin hormone and bile acid.
MSM Research for Osteoarthritis
The organic compound MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) supplies the body with natural sulfur, which plays a major role in cartilage formation, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms.1 MSM modified immune responses in mice that were induced with arthritis, diminishing the arthritic deformation and swelling induced by type II collagen injections. 2 Animal trials have also confirmed the efficacy of MSM in suppressing UV-induced skin inflammation and swelling reactions, suggesting it has anti-inflammatory activities and mitigates immune reactions that can contribute to inflammation. 3
There have been a few clinical trials as well. An unpublished, double blind study using OptiMSM found patients with degenerative arthritis taking 750 mg/d showed an 80 percent improvement after six weeks. Follow-up work in a 12-week pilot clinical study found adults with mild to moderate knee OA who took 3 g twice daily of MSM (as OptiMSM) had statistically significant reductions in pain and in difficulty performing activities of daily living. 4 And research out of Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences, H yderabad, India, found combining 500 mg of MSM tid and 500 mg glucosamine tid for 12 weeks provided a significantly greater decrease in joint swelling and pain intensity among patients with mild to moderate OA than either therapy alone; both MSM and glucosamine alone had greater effects than placebo.
Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial.
Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2006 Mar;14(3)286-94.
Fifty men and women, 40-76 years of age with knee soteoarthritis pain were given a MSM supplement 3 grams twice a day for 12 weeks. Outcomes included the Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index visual analogue scale (WOMAC), and patient and physician global assessments. Compared to placebo, patients given a MSM supplement produced significant decreases in WOMAC pain and physical function impairment. No notable changes were found in WOMAC stiffness and aggregated total symptoms scores. MSM also produced improvement in performing activities of daily living when compared to placebo. MSM 3 grams twice a day improved symptoms of pain and physical function during the short intervention without major adverse events.
A multi-centered, open label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis.
Barrager E, Veltmann JR, Schauss AG, Schiller RN.
J Altern Complement Med 2002;8:167–74.
In a open-label study of 55 patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR; hayfever), MSM at 2600mg/day significantly reduced upper and total respiratory symptoms within 7 days; lower respiratory symptoms were significantly improved from baseline by week 3. No significant changes were observed in plasma IgE or histamine levels. Few side effects were associated with the use of MSM and no patient dropped out of the study due to adverse reactions. Energy levels increased significantly by day 14. The results suggest that MSM may be an efficacious in reducing symptoms associated with SAR.
Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis.
Usha PR, Naidu MUR. Clin Drug Invest 2004; 24:353–63.
Randomized, double-blind trial comparing MSM, glucosamine, both, or placebo for osteoarthritis of the knee. Approximately 30 patients per group. Dose was 1,500 mg per day for 12 weeks. The efficacy parameters studied were the pain index, the swelling index, visual analogue scale pain intensity, 15m walking time, the Lequesne index, and consumption of rescue medicine. There were statistically significant decreases in pain with Glu and with MSM respectively. The combination treatment resulted in a more significant decrease in the mean pain index than either treatment alone. Conclusion: Glu, MSM and their combination produced an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect in osteoarthritis. Combination therapy showed better efficacy in reducing pain and swelling and in improving the functional ability of joints than the individual agents. In reality, however, this was an exceedingly poorly reported study and these conclusions must be considered dubious.