This prompted Dr. Susan Hewlings, Central Michigan University, and Dr. Doug Kalman, Nova Southeastern University, to examine sulfur research and compile a detailed scientific review paper on behalf of Bergstrom Nutrition, makers of OptiMSM. Their work, “Sulfur in Human Health,” was recently published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, EC Nutrition.
“Unfortunately, most of the research available is on the sulfur-containing amino acids (SAAs) methionine, cysteine, and taurine because they were originally thought to provide most of the sulfur needed,” said Hewlings. “But speculation has recently surfaced about methionine meeting dietary needs, due to the sulfur content of the soil being very low. And cysteine is synthesized by the body through a sulfur dependent pathway, so without proper amounts of sulfur it may not be able to fully do its job.”
“This is critical because sulfur holds many functions in human health. Beyond its long history of use for dermatologic issues, two of its most important roles lie in the connective tissue and the liver,” said Kalman. “As an anti-inflammatory, sulfur has been connected to joint health and mobility, along with helping the body regain homeostasis in reaction to oxidative stress as a major component of detoxification.”
Currently, there is no universal recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for sulfur because the requirements are assumed to be met through SAAs. But both review authors warn that these recommendations rely on what might be considered inappropriate nitrogen balance studies. Moreover, SAAs are indirect sources of sulfur and possibly not reliable.
“An ingredient that would answer these concerns is methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which is made up of sulfur, oxygen, and methyl groups,” added Hewlings.
MSM is naturally found in a variety of foods, such as milk, fruits, tomatoes, corn, coffee, and tea. Beyond changing agricultural practices affecting its level in foods, MSM can significantly decrease during food processing. Therefore, an increased interest in adding MSM as a dietary supplement is on the rise.
“In the short term, adding MSM to the diet would be my top recommendation for those looking to increase their sulfur intake. We are most familiar with the branded MSM supplement, OptiMSM, since it’s the only MSM manufactured stringently enough to be added to food—qualifications that are called generally recognized as safe (GRAS)’ and highly respected in our industry,” said Kalman. “But our long-term aim is to galvanize our community so that more research on sulfur confirms our instincts that a sulfur RDA is necessary.”