Although the mechanisms of action of MSM are still not fully understood, research over the past decade has given a substantial amount of information on how it interacts with the body. As it is currently understood, the multiple benefits of MSM can be attributed the three primary characteristics: sulfur content, antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Sulfur is the third most abundant mineral based on a percentage of total body weight and is essential for over 300 bodily processes. Structurally, sulfur is essential for connective tissues like collagen and keratin as it gives the tissues their strong but flexible characteristics. Sulfur is an important component of the detoxification process in the liver, part of the body’s natural anti-oxidant pathways, and essential for many enzymatic processes. MSM is 34% sulfur, making it an efficient source of organic sulfur 3 grams of MSM has over 1 gram of sulfur.
MSM is not a direct anti-oxidant, in that it doesn’t quench oxidative species like vitamins C or E. Instead, it works by decreasing the production of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (RONS) and by supporting the body’s natural anti-oxidant pathways. MSM has been shown to decrease the production of nitric oxide (NO) and mitochondrial ROS, decreasing initial levels of oxidative stress. And it has been shown increase levels of glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase (CAT), essential anti-oxidant pathways of the body used to combat oxidative stress.
Inflammation is associated with a myriad of chronic and acute health issues. MSM can down-regulate a key gatekeeper molecule called NF-kB. This molecule initiates an inflammatory cascade that leads to the production of the inflammatory cytokines IL-1, IL-6, and TNF-α. MSM is also able to inhibit expression of the NLRP3 inflammasome, which causes subsequent inflammation.