MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a natural organo-sulphur compound found in certain fruits, vegetables and grains. Nutrients close to MSM can be converted to MSM by intestinal bacteria, but not everyone has these bacteria.1 Taking a dietary supplement containing MSM directly may therefore be the best, safe and well-tolerated option.
What are the properties of MSM?
Due to its sulphur composition, MSM is an agent against inflammation and oxidative stress. It can interfere with subcellular mechanisms and transcriptional signals such as NFκB and COX2 that promote inflammation. For example, it will desensitize the immune system, decrease inflammatory cytokines (IL-6) and inhibit vasodilation in chronic inflammation. It is a powerful antioxidant because it regulates the balance of free radicals, notably by stimulating antioxidant enzymes (glutamate-cysteine ligase, SODs, catalase, peroxiredoxin, GPx, GST…) and by inhibiting cytokines (TNFα), enzymes (NO – nitric oxide- synthases) and other cellular processes (p53, Jak/STAT) involved in the generation of free radicals. 1
An asset for joints
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, in particular through the suppression of inflammatory cytokines (TNFα, IL-1β), MSM can protect cartilage and synovial fluid, thus improving the condition of the joint. It can also reduce pain after sport.1,2
Several clinical studies in osteoarthritis have shown that taking MSM reduces pain, stiffness and swelling in the joint, leading to improved physical function and daily performance. This translates into improved VAS (Continuous Pain Scale), WOMAC (joint function and pain), SF36 (quality of life) and Lequesne Index (joint function) scores, as well as a possible decrease in the use of anti-inflammatory medications. Its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties therefore make it a valuable ally in improving the symptoms of osteoarthritis and the quality of daily life.1,3,4,5,6,7
Taking MSM is also beneficial in case of arthritis because it reduces inflammation by reducing the expression of cytokines (IL-6, IL-8), certain inflammatory cell processes (STAT3, NFκB…), as well as the amount of other markers such as anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (anti-CCP2), C-reactive proteins (CRP) and rheumatoid factors (RF).1,8
These effects appear to be potentiated by an association with collagen or chondroitin-glucosamine.
MSM for beautiful skin
The skin properties of MSM were among the first patented. In 1981, Dr. Herschler had already demonstrated that the use of MSM resulted in smoother, softer skin and firmer nails.9 He went on to add, among other applications, improved wound healing.1 Other studies later showed that taking MSM did indeed improve skin appearance, pigmentation and elasticity. Wrinkles are also reduced. These effects could be due to various mechanisms, such as the fact that MSM can give a sulphur atom to the keratin, as well as the protection it offers against UV rays.1 In addition, it reduces rosacea symptoms (itching, redness, pimples, dehydration, etc.) by modulating the presence of cytokines and angiokines.10
Muscular benefits of MSM
The properties of MSM make it an excellent ally in limiting muscle aches and pains. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers and its contribution to the supply of sulphur to the tissue, it helps to limit microtrauma and muscular lesions, which is measured by a decrease in creatine kinase. Thus, taking MSM, especially before endurance or resistance exercise, helps limit muscle (and joint) damage and pain at the end of effort, and improve recovery. It has been suggested that these effects may be due in part to an increase in the body’s antioxidant capacity and a decrease in markers of oxidative stress that normally increase during sports practice. 1,2,11,12,11,13
Useful properties for many conditions
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory action, MSM helps to improve the symptoms of allergic rhinitis (runny nose/eye, itchy eyes, etc.), in particular to reduce respiratory ailments and to increase patients’ energy levels.14
Some neurocognitive disorders may be due to a deregulation of the oxidative balance, which decreases the resilience of neurons. Taking MSM helps to limit oxidative stress and thus protect neuronal cells by rebalancing the oxidative balance, which decreases the amount of free radicals and nitric oxide, and by supplying sulphur atoms to the tissue.15
MSM also appears to be involved in the inhibition of certain oncogenic proteins and transcription factors, as well as in the reduction of angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels to nourish the tumour and the spread of metastases).1,16
- Butawan, M., Benjamin, R. L. & Bloomer, R. J. Methylsulfonylmethane: Applications and safety of a novel dietary supplement. Nutrients 9, (2017).
- Withee, E. D., Tippens, K. M., Dehen, R. & Hanes, D. Effects of MSM on exercise-induced muscle and joint pain: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12, (2015).
- Lubis, A. M. T., Siagian, C., Wonggokusuma, E., Marsetyo, A. F. & Setyohadi, B. Comparison of Glucosamine-Chondroitin Sulfate with and without Methylsulfonylmethane in Grade I-II Knee Osteoarthritis: A Double Blind Randomized Controlled Trial. Acta medica Indonesiana 49, 105–111 (2017).
- Usha, P. R. & Naidu, M. U. R. Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis. Clinical Drug Investigation 24, 353–363 (2004).
- Debbi, E. M. et al. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane supplementation on osteoarthritis of the knee: A randomized controlled study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 11, (2011).
- Notarnicola, A. et al. Methylsulfonylmethane and boswellic acids versus glucosamine sulfate in the treatment of knee arthritis: Randomized trial. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology 29, 140–146 (2016).
- Kim, L. S., Axelrod, L. J., Howard, P., Buratovich, N. & Waters, D. R. F. Efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) in osteoarthritis pain of the knee: a pilot clinical trial 1,2. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2005.10.003
- Arafa, N. M., Hamuda, H. M., Melek, S. T. & Darwish, S. K. The effectiveness of Echinacea extract or composite glucosamine, chondroitin and methyl sulfonyl methane supplements on acute and chronic rheumatoid arthritis rat model. Toxicology and Industrial Health 29, 187–201 (2013).
- Herschler, R. J. US4296130A – Methylsulfonylmethane and methods of use. (1979). Available at: https://patents.google.com/patent/US4296130A/en. (Accessed: 11th December 2019)
- Berardesca, E. et al. Combined effects of silymarin and methylsulfonylmethane in the management of rosacea: Clinical and instrumental evaluation. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 7, 8–14 (2008).
- Kalman, D. S., Feldman, S., Scheinberg, A. R., Krieger, D. R. & Bloomer, R. J. Influence of methylsulfonylmethane on markers of exercise recovery and performance in healthy men: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 9, (2012).
- Withee, E. D. et al. Effects of Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) on exercise-induced oxidative stress, muscle damage, and pain following a half-marathon: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 14, (2017).
- Nakhostin-Roohi, B., Niknam, Z., Vaezi, N., Mohammadi, S. & Bohlooli, S. Effect of single dose administration of methylsulfonylmethane on oxidative stress following acute exhaustive exercise. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR 12, 845–53 (2013).
- Barrager, E., Veltmann, J. R., Schauss, A. G. & Schiller, R. N. A multicentered, open-label trial on the safety and efficacy of methylsulfonylmethane in the treatment of seasonal allergic rhinitis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8, 167–173 (2002).
- Kim, S. H. et al. MSM ameliorates HIV-1 tat induced neuronal oxidative stress via rebalance of the glutathione cycle. American Journal of Translational Research 7, 328–338 (2015).
- Lim, E. J. et al. Methylsulfonylmethane suppresses breast cancer growth by down-regulating STAT3 and STAT5b pathways. PLoS ONE 7, (2012).