Sulfur supplements like Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) are known benefits for joint health, sports nutrition, immune function, and anti‐aging formulations and are gaining popularity as a nutritional supplement for support of hair, skin and nails.
Health and a youthful, glowing, healthy appearance is a common desire of the ageing population and is reflected in the billions of dollars spent each year on vitamins, minerals, botanical extracts, and antioxidants in an effort to maintain a youthful appearance of the skin and promote overall well-being. The concept of health and wellness offers a composite of several specialty categories with emphasis on prevention and maintenance rather than on therapy. This concept of beauty “inside-out” approach using nutrition and nutraceuticals to support skin function is gaining popularity (1). Nutricosmetics refer to innovative ingestible products that are marketed specifically for beauty benefits (1). Products that address “beauty from within” provide endogenous support to reduce the effects and manifestations of aging. Termed nutricosmetics, or "beauty pills” or "beauty from within," and even "oral cosmetics”. these products currently include antioxidants like polyphenols, phytonutrients, and vitamins C and E, as well as structural components like hydrolyzed collagen and hyaluronan, bioactive peptides, oligosaccharides, plant polyphenols, carotenoids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. (2-3). Supplementation with these products has shown evidence of changing signs of ageing like dermal wrinkles as well as protection from UV radiation ageing in several human trials (2,4).
MSM is a natural constituent of the environment available in a variety of foods including milk, grains, fruits, and vegetables (5). It is a normal oxidation product of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) and may be part of the natural global sulfur cycle, so it may provide a source of sulfur for essential animal methionine (6).
Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral element in the body. The amino acids cysteine and methionine are used by the body to make glutathione. Excess cysteine and methionine are oxidized to sulfate by sulfite oxidase, eliminated in the urine, or stored as glutathione (which can serve as a store for sulfur). Plants concentrate MSM available in the soil and from the atmosphere, from where it becomes available in many foods. MSM represents an organic form of sulfur (5) which plays an important role in many body organs and systems. It has long been associated with skin health because of its fundamental role in physiological processes, including the synthesis of collagen, hyaluronic acid, and keratohyalin—the most abundant matrix molecules in the skin (8-10).
Sulfur amino acids contribute substantially to the maintenance and integrity of the cellular systems by influencing cellular redox state and the capacity to detoxify toxic compounds, free radicals and reactive oxygen species (11). Any dietary excess is readily oxidized to sulfate, excreted in the urine (or reabsorbed depending on dietary levels) or stored in the form of glutathione (GSH). There is evidence that MSM sulfur can be incorporated into the sulfur-containing amino acids methionine and cysteine to provide a source of dietary sulfur and MSM may affect the compartmentalization and metabolism of sulfur (6)
MSM is known to be a beneficial nutrient and a therapeutic substance for treatment of acne, arthritis, muscle pain, weak nails, dry or rough skin, and other ailments. In addition, a variety of health-specific outcome measures have been demonstrated to improve with MSM supplementation, including inflammation, joint/muscle pain, oxidative stress, and antioxidant capacity (12-16). It has become a popular dietary supplement as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. When administered orally it is rapidly absorbed, well distributed, and efficiently excreted from the body (5,17). Oral supplementation with MSM has been shown to influence skin on a genetic level, by regulating a select number of genes responsible for inflammation, skin barrier, and moisturization, as well as those genes involved in the structural integrity of the skin which are associated with the aging process (18). MSM is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) approved substance. It is well-tolerated by most individuals at dosages of up to four grams daily, with few known and mild side effects (16) and has been reported to be non-toxic (5,19).
Hormonal imbalance, inflammation, smoking, exposure to UV radiation, and environmental stressors contribute to the aging of the skin by production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can potentially damage cell membranes, proteins, and DNA. Free radicals are composed of oxygen molecules with an unpaired electron and are induced by several exogenous and endogenous factors, including UV exposure, pollution, stress, smoking and normal metabolic processes. Studies show that free radicals induce alterations in gene expression pathways, which in turn contribute to the degradation of collagen and the accumulation of elastin emblematic of photo‐aged skin (20-21). MSM supports the body’s natural antioxidant pathways through increased levels of glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase (22). MSM has been shown to reduce levels of homocysteine, a molecule with damaging effects on collagen crosslinking (23).
This overload of oxidative stress and a production of free radicals can eventually break down connective tissues and collagen, and release chemicals that lead to cellular and molecular events that are evident as signs of aging, such as the formation of wrinkles, uneven. skin tone, dyspigmentation, inflammation, immunosuppression, photoaging, photocarcinogenesis, and sagging skin. Nutricosmetics provide nutritional antioxidant supplementation to support endogenous antioxidant enzymes that may help to internally regulate oxidative stress and help to achieve a healthier skin appearance from the inside out. (1) Among the ingredients used in nutricosmetics, antioxidants represent the most crucial. The best-known antioxidants are carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and astaxanthin) and polyphenols (anthocyanidins, catechins, flavonoids, tannins, and procyanidins) (2).
Inflammation is a known contributor to the degradation of collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid thus, reducing inflammation is another integral approach to preventing wrinkle formation. Anti‐oxidants and free radical scavengers protect the skin via reducing skin inflammation by directly acting on cytokine and growth factor receptors in dermal cells and keratinocytes (24-27). Interventions that suppress, prevent, or alter the dynamics of chronic inflammation hold great promise for treating or preventing multiple age-related pathologies.
The anti-inflammatory properties of MSM have great potential in supporting skin health by reduction of damage through inflammatory cascades. Studies have indicated that MSM can reduce the production of interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), nitric oxide (NO), prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), and nuclear factor (NF)-κB (28-31). Since MSM can inhibit NF-κB transcriptional activity it reduces the expression of enzymes and cytokines involved in ROS production. Downregulation of COX-2 and iNOS reduces the amount of superoxide radical (O2−) and nitric oxide (NO), respectively (29).
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