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MSM is great. But what about the source?
on September 20, 2012
>> BACKGROUND <<
I have 14 years of experience with MSM supplementation. Aside from using it myself, I also included it as an ingredient in a product my neutraceutical company produced (for 7 years; in New Zealand; some years ago now). I had to source MSM for that product.
I am writing this "review" because I was very surprised to see the price on this Omica MSM when I was hunting around on Amazon for a source of OptiMSM with Prime shipping. I was also intrigued by their "non-petroleum derived" claim and how they are using that to justify the extra cost. I think MSM is a great product and I don't like to see people spending more on these things than is necessary.
>> MSM SOURCE <<
As far as I am aware, the vast majority of MSM on the American market (and sold worldwide) is manufactured in China. It is my understanding that whether it's derived from methane (a petroleum product) or from wood fibre (typically by processing the sludge that comes out of paper mills) it can't strictly speaking be referred to as "natural" either way. What's more, taking it from paper mill sludge or methane is unlikely to have much impact on the comparative quality of the end products if it is appropriately purified. 99.99% pure MSM is just that... 99.99% pure MSM - whether from wood or petroleum. The manufacturing (refining) process involved is chemically intensive whatever the source, and the end product is the same chemical (MSM).
For this reason I am not at all convinced that paying a premium price for "wood" or "plant" or "non-petroleum" derived MSM is worth it. Most of the scientific studies I am familiar with on the positive effects of MSM for conditions such as arthritis, etc., utilised around 10 to 20 grams per day. 16oz therefore gives you about a 1 to 1.5 month supply at those dosages. I currently buy 5 lbs of OptiMSM for about $50. This Omica product is currently selling for about $40 a pound.
>> PURITY IS LIKELY MORE IMPORTANT <<
I think the more important point is just how pure your MSM is. For instance, OptiMSM is a brand of MSM made in the USA and it is 4x-distilled to get it about as pure as is possible. I am not aware of MSM coming from China that is 4x-distilled. Apparently most (if not all) of the Chinese MSM is not distilled at all. A process of crystallisation is used to get it out of solution, which brings impurities with it. When I was in the nutritionals business all the MSM I could source in China was non-distilled.
HOWEVER, I would be inclined to suspect (I am guessing) that that typical petroleum derived MSM is more likely to have higher levels of contaminants like heavy metals, arsenic, etc. than typical wood derived MSM. But I should point out that I would not use either product (at least not on a regular basis). Both are likely to have (low levels of) impurities. When I had my neutraceutical company I would receive Certificates of Analysis with each batch of MSM I received (to put into one of my nutritional products). I will say we are talking about pretty low levels when I refer to "impurities". However, I will also say I was always weary of the validity of such certificates because the standards and checks on such things in China are often not the best. Take a look at studies showing how common it is for Ginseng Extracts (for example) to have considerably high levels of heavy metals like lead in them. But in China that's okay.
Yet, if we take MSM from either source (wood or methane) and ultra-purify it I would be inclined to think we end up with the same quality of product.
When I use MSM I take a couple of table spoons a day. I don't think "NON-petroleum Derived MSM" makes enough (if any) difference to justify the (4x to 5x) cost, compared to ultra-pure 4x-distilled MSM from ANY source.
I have taken a look through the website of Omica. They have what appear to be some excellent products. But I could find no specific information on their MSM about how it is made and where it is sourced from. [UPDATE Feb 15 2013] In the comments to this review, Omica inform us that their MSM is made in the USA and from wood pulp (aka, paper industry sludge) as opposed to methane.
*** THREE STARS *** (REDUCED TO TWO STARS... SEE UPDATE BELOW)
I am giving this product three stars primarily because MSM itself is an excellent supplement (in my opinion). But I don't believe Omica has made enough effort to make it public where they source there MSM from and it's overall purity. I also think they are taking advantage of peoples' desire to have what is perceived to be a more "natural" (non-petroleum) MSM product, when really MSM is anything but natural... whatever the source.
If Omica provide more explicit and meaningful information on their website and here on their Amazon listing, I may increase my rating.
>> MY RECOMMENDATION <<
If you like Omica MSM and don't mind the price, I certainly don't want to put you off. Although I would recommend emailing or phoning the company to find out which country it is sourced from, and what measures are taken to ensure its purity.
If you are not already attached to this brand, I would suggest finding a brand that utilises OptiMSM. The best (cheapest) source I can find on Amazon right now (and this may well have changed by the time you read this, so search around) is this one from Doctor's Best: Doctor's Best, Best MSM Powder (1 gram / serving), 250-Grams (currently $8.65 with free 2-day / Prime shipping)
[UPDATE, Early Feb 2013 - Omica have kindly taken the time to comment on this review. Here is the details of their comment:
"Our MSM (and DMSO) is sourced from and produced in the USA, and distilled multiple times to insure purity. Because we produce our MSM in the United States from non-petroleum sources, our production costs are substantially higher than MSM produced from petroleum sources in China or the US. Posted on our website are third-party laboratory analyses, including carbon-dating reports confirming that our MSM is non-petroleum derived and also purity reports."
- - So Omica has revealed their MSM is made in the USA and is distilled multiple times. In that case it sounds rather similar to the Opti-MSM product. I have increased the rating to 4-stars in credit of its purity and not being Chinese MSM. However, I still think the price is high for distilled made-in-the-USA MSM. As mentioned above, OptiMSM is more affordable, and is 4x distilled and ultrapure, and from non-petroleum sources. 4 stars for quality, and 1 star off for the high price.
[UPDATE, March 8th 2013]
Because the claims of Omica contradicted what I understood about the MSM industry, I conducted further research into the matter. They provide two carbon tests to prove their MSM is plant-derived (NON-PETROLEUM derived).
From my perspective there are two significant issues with the two carbon dating tests they provided on their web site. The first is that there is nothing to identify the batch the samples tested actually came from. If their MSM was produced following GMP (or applicable ISO) standards, there would be an easy to prove and trace trail from the MSM that was tested to the exact batch it came from, including where and when it was manufactured. In my professional nutraceutical experience, typically a traceable batch number is cited on samples that are tested. They don't provide this information, which seems odd to me.
My research indicates that up until 2010 there was one company making MSM from which ONE of the raw materials was from wood pulp (pine, used in paper production). Because they provide no batch numbers we have no way of knowing whether the MSM they had tested on each occasion was the MSM they are selling today. They could have another test done in 2020 with the same batch of MSM and get the same result, and yet be selling something completely different. I suppose they could have bought a very large amount of the (partially) wood derived MSM prior to mid 2010 AND/OR they might has such a low sales volume they still have stock from MSM made over 3 years ago. HOWEVER: The second issue is this: carbon dating does not provide the full picture. A carbon test potentially gives us some insight into whether the source of the methyl groups (ONLY) is ancient (petrochemicals, such as methane) or relatively new (trees). By ancient, I mean older than 40,000 years, which is what the ASTM-D6866 test they utilised is able to prove. When producing DMSO in the way (partially) plant-based MSM is made, one requires a source of methyl groups AND a source of sulphur (which is what we are actually ingesting the MSM for in the first place). The MSM that was (until 2010) using methyl groups produced from the lignin found in wood pulp liquor (a black, toxic, chemical slurry) still had to obtain sulfur from somewhere. As far as I can determine, that came from sulfur supplied by Phillips Chevron. They get their sulfur from from fossil fuels (mostly obtained from industrial smoke stack scrubbers). Sulphur makes up 34% of MSM by weight. So, at the very most, Omica MSM could be 66% plant derived. I find it odd and interesting that their web site was previously (up until at least Nov 30th 2012) making the claim their MSM is 100% plant derived. As far as I know there has never been such an MSM product in mass production.
It is my understanding the company that WAS producing MSM partially from wood pulp ceased production in 2010. It was called Gaylord Chemical Corporation. Gaylord shut down the facility that was producing DMSO / MSM from wood pulp, and they now make it using the more common method utilised today (which I won't get into here).
Because Omica is making an extraordinary claim, I expect them to provide extraordinary evidence. Until they provide conclusive evidence of which facility makes their rarified 100% NON-PETROLEUM MSM, I can only consider their statements to this effect as misleading, at best.
I HAVE THUS REDUCED my rating of their product to 2 stars.
Pure, US made, MSM itself gets 5 stars. Bergstrom Nutrition (makers of OptiMSM) is currently the only company I know of that produces ultra pure US made MSM.
(END OF UPDATE)
I wish you all the best of health,
- Jonathan Evatt
International lecturer, Traditional Naturopath, natural health coach, and award-winning author of Peace, Power, and Presence: A guide to Self Empowerment, Inner Peace, and Spiritual Enlightenment (available on Amazon.com)