Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that can be used to improve cognitive function, particularly in the elderly. It's also helpful for combating the effects of depression and ADHD, and may also be useful in boosting athletic performance. That said, phosphatidylserine has many important functions in the tissues and organs of the body.
While the body is capable of making its own phosphatidylserine, it gets most of its requirements from foods. If food sources aren't enough to provide the body with phosphatidylserine, supplements can be taken. Phosphatidylserine supplements are typically manufactured from sources like cabbage and soy.
What exactly is phosphatidylserine? How can it be used to boost overall health?
- What Is Phosphatidylserine
- How Does Phosphatidylserine Work?
- Benefits Of Phosphatidylserine
- How To Use Phosphatidylserine
What Is Phosphatidylserine?:
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid made up of amino acids and fatty acids1. It plays an integral role in the development of healthy cell membranes. Specifically phosphatidylserine makes up 10-20% of the lipids (fats) in the brain and is also a component of the myelin sheath which increases the speed in which neurons can communicate to one another
Phospholipids are an important type of lipid that is a predominant component of all cell membrane structures in the body and protects the cells. Phosphatidylserine is crucial for maintaining optimal cellular function, particularly in the brain. It’s also important in the formation of bone matrix, repair of cells and hormonal secretion by the adrenal glands.
How Does Phosphatidylserine Work?:
As a phospholipid, phosphatidylserine works in the body by covering and protecting the cells in the brain. It also acts as a messenger between brain cells to ensure effective communication. As such, phosphatidylserine plays a key role in keeping the memory sharp and cognitive abilities strong. In fact, phosphatidylserine is one of the few naturally occurring compounds that has an FDA-approved health claim that it can help reverse neurodegenerative disease.
Phosphatidylserine seems to work mainly by lowering salivary (saliva) cortisol levels by down-regulating the adrenal glands, the organs that produce cortisol. Cortisol is one of the body’s primary stress hormones and excess cortisol has been associated with brain fog, low energy levels, libido.
Although we do produce phosphatidylserine the amount found in our fat tissues seem to decline with age. This may have to do with not consuming enough phosphatidylserine in our diet. Phosphatidylserine is mainly found in organ meats, with the highest quantity found in animal brains. Being that the majority of people today do not consume organ meats and that bovine brains are illegal for consumption in America, this likely plays a role in the decline of phosphatidylserine in our body over time.
In this regard, many benefits of supplementing with phosphatidylserine may have to do with providing an “supplemental” source of phosphatidylserine that we are no longer consuming in our diet.s
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Benefits of Phosphatidylserine:
Whether consumed through specific types of foods or through supplement forms, phosphatidylserine offers the body a number of benefits and may be effective in dealing with the following ailments.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that involves the gradual decline in cognitive function and memory. Those afflicted with the disease inevitably end up forgetting who they are, and they are no longer able to control many basic bodily functions.
Studies have shown that phosphatidylserine supplements may be effective in improving brain cell communication and reducing the levels of brain chemicals that hinder memory. Some people who regularly take phosphatidylserine may see an improvement in their symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia; though, it seems to be most effective in those who are in the early stages of the disease and are suffering less severe symptoms.
One particular study showed that Alzheimer’s patients who took 300 mg of phosphatidylserine daily over an 8-week period experienced more noticeable improvement in their overall well-being compared to study participants who took a placebo.
One of the biggest effects of phosphatidylserine is its ability to combat cognitive decline, particularly in the elderly. As people age, their cognitive abilities gradually decline, but supplementing with phosphatidylserine may be able to slow down this process of cognitive decline.
Studies suggest that phosphatidylserine can help to not only improve memory and cognitive function, but also in mood and behavior as well. One particular study found that phosphatidylserine was able to foster significant improvements in cognitive and behavioral function in study participants.
Research suggests that those who suffer from depression can combat their symptoms by supplementing with phosphatidylserine, which may help to positively impact the levels of brain neurotransmitters that are related to mood. In turn, this may help reduce the severity of depression and its symptoms.
One particular study showed that elderly women with depression were able to significantly reduce the severity of their depression when they took 300 mg of phosphatidylserine daily for one month.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects a person's ability to focus. It negatively impacts brain development and activity that affects attention, self-control and the ability to control movement. ADHD is among the more common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood; though it affects adults as well.
While there are pharmaceutical medications that have been developed and administered to combat ADHD, phosphatidylserine supplementation may be an effective natural source to reduce the negative symptoms associated with the condition.
More specifically, studies have shown that phosphatidylserine may be effective at boosting memory and cognition function, increasing mental focus and elevating the mood.
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Considerations When Supplementing With Phosphatidylserine:
Phosphatidylserine has been shown to be relatively safe for people when taken at the appropriate dose. That said, there may be certain minor side effects that phosphatidylserine supplementation may cause, including stomach upset and sleep issues.
Anyone who may be considering taking phosphatidylserine should consult with a doctor first. Furthermore, certain individuals may not be suitable candidates for this supplement — including women who are pregnant or who are breastfeeding — as there is not enough data to show its safety in these cases.
How to Use Phosphatidylserine:
As already mentioned, the body is already capable of producing its own phosphatidylserine. That said, there may be times when there is simply not enough production of the phospholipid. In this case, it may be necessary to supplement it by eating specific types of foods or taking a phosphatidylserine nutritional supplement on a daily basis in order to avoid deficiency.
Recommended Daily Allowance of Phosphatidylserine
The recommended daily dose of phosphatidylserine is between 100- 500 mg a day9. On average, it should be safe to take approximately 100 mg three times daily.
Who is at Risk of Phosphatidylserine Deficiency?
Unfortunately, because phosphatidylserine decreases with age is likely is why it's more common for the elderly to suffer from some level of memory loss or cognitive dysfunction compared to younger individuals.
Those who are already suffering from depression, ADHD or dementia are at greater risk of suffering from a phosphatidylserine deficiency than others.
Foods That Contain Phosphatidylserine:
There are plenty of phosphatidylserine-rich foods that people can obtain this phospholipid from, including the following:
- Animal organs, such as liver, brain and heart
- Cow and sheep milk
Supplementing With Phosphatidylserine:
Phosphatidylserine is a critical component of cellular function, particularly in the brain. As such, it may be effective at alleviating some of the symptoms associated with several cognitive issues, including dementia, Alzheimer’s, and ADHD.
That said, it's important to take phosphatidylserine at the appropriate doses to ensure safety. Further, no supplements should be added to a daily diet regimen without first consulting with a physician.
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Citations and Sources
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2. Kim H, Huang B, Spector A. Phosphatidylserine in the Brain: Metabolism and Function. Prog Lipid Res. 2014;0:1-18. [PMC]
3. Engel R, Satzger W, Günther W, et al. Double-blind cross-over study of phosphatidylserine vs. placebo in patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer type. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1992;2(2):149-155. [PubMed]
4. Cenacchi T, Bertoldin T, Farina C, Fiori M, Crepaldi G. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration. Aging (Milano). 1993;5(2):123-133. [PubMed]
5. Messamore E, McNamara R. Detection and treatment of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency in psychiatric practice: Rationale and implementation. Lipids Health Dis. 2016;15:25. [PMC]
6. Maggioni M, Picotti G, Bondiolotti G, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine therapy in geriatric patients with depressive disorders. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1990;81(3):265-270. [PubMed]
7. Hirayama S, Terasawa K, Rabeler R, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014;27 Suppl 2:284-291. [PubMed]
8. Jorissen B, Brouns F, Van B, Riedel W. Safety of soy-derived phosphatidylserine in elderly people. Nutr Neurosci. 2002;5(5):337-343. [PubMed]
9. Kingsley M. Effects of phosphatidylserine supplementation on exercising humans. Sports Med. 2006;36(8):657-669. [PubMed]