Methylsulfonylmethane is a relatively new dietary supplement form of sulfur that is found in our living tissues. MSM supports healthy connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and muscle. Thus, it is important in conditions such as arthritis, muscle pains, bursitis, etc. MSM should be considered an integral part of any health care practice because of its physiological action, indirect importance, and current / future uses. To understand MSM, some background information is necessary. MSM is a "naturally-occurring nutrient found in normal human diets It gets into the diet through the sulfur cycle. Ocean plankton release sulfur compounds which rise into the ozone where ultra-violet light makes MSM and DMSO. DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide, is a precursor to MSM. MSM and DMSO return to the surface of the earth in rain. Plants concentrate MSM and return it to the earth and the sea. Evaporation into the air results in their return to the earth.
MSM has a unique action on body tissues. It decreases the pressure inside the cell. In removing fluids and toxins, sulfur affects the cell membrane. MSM is an organic form of sulfur, whereas sulfites in foodstuffs are inorganic. Sue Williams states "sulfur is present in all cells" and is in the form of "organic compounds throughout the body’. However, sulfur can be found in the body in sulfate forms. It forms sulfate compounds with sodium, potassium, magnesium, and selenium. MSM has a significance, because sulfur compounds are found everywhere throughout the body and in nature. Sulfur has an indirect importance, because sulfur compounds play a role in many body organs and systems. Sulfur is in the hair, skin, and nails. Many amino acids, the building blocks of protein, have sulfur as a component. Taurine is a sulfur-containing amino acid formed from methionine. Taurine stabilizes cell membranes. Methionine contains sulfur, detoxifies cells, and is involved in pain relief. Carnitine comes from methionine and transports long chain fatty acids preventing accumulations of lipoproteins.
MSM is promoted as a natural source of sulfur by the supplement and health food industry, suggesting that people are deficient in sulfur intake. However, protein in the diet is an abundant source of sulfur, which is contained in the amino acids methionine and cysteine. MSM is sold as a dietary supplement that is marketed with a variety of claims and is commonly used (often in combination with glucosamine and/or chondroitin) for helping to treat or prevent osteoarthritis. U.S. Retail sales of MSM as a single ingredient in dietary supplements amounted to $115 million in 2003. The biochemical effects of supplemental methylsulfonylmethane are poorly understood. Clinical evidence for the usefulness of MSM is limited to animal studies and four published clinical studies in humans. These pilot studies of MSM have suggested some benefits, particularly for treatment of osteoarthritis. Further studies would be needed to test the usefulness of the chemical as a medical therapy