Phosphatidylserine May Help Improve Cognitive Function

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Story at-a-glance

  • Phosphatidylserine is one supplement that is becoming widely appreciated in the market because of its potential to boost brain health — but it does so much more than that
  • Discover more about phosphatidylserine, its food sources and recommended dosage, and factors to consider before supplementation

Phosphatidylserine is a supplement that is currently being talked about in the health community, especially those who are seeking to improve their cognitive function. But did you know that phosphatidylserine is naturally found in your body? Discover what phosphatidylserine does and why it can potentially benefit your health by reading this article.

What Is Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an amino acid derivative that is highly prevalent in the neural tissue of humans. This fat-soluble phospholipid 1 is found in every single cell membrane of your body, with high concentrations of it in the brain.2 Phosphatidylserine is especially important for cellular function in the brain.3

PS can be synthesized by the body, although it can also be consumed through food sources (see next section, below). However, some believe that more benefits can be gained if you take a phosphatidylserine complex supplement.4

So how exactly does phosphatidylserine function? Basically, this nutrient has a unique structure that makes it both hydrophilic, meaning it’s attracted to water and hydrophobic, or repelled by water. With this structure, phospholipids are able to arrange themselves into a phospholipid bilayer — two parallel layers that form a major component of the human cell membranes.

In brain cell membranes, the phospholipid bilayer acts as a “gatekeeper,” regulating the entry beneficial substances, basically nutrients, water and oxygen, while eliminating metabolic waste.5

Can You Get Phosphatidylserine From Food Sources?

There are very few phosphatidylserine-rich foods available today, but there are certain drawbacks to relying on them to boost your levels. This is because food sources of phosphatidylserine may not be as healthy as they seem.

For example, the highest levels of PS are found in cow brains, with a 100-gram serving loaded with 713 milligrams of this substance. However, ingesting cow brain, particularly those raised in conventional factory farms, can put a person at risk of mad cow disease. Meanwhile, soybeans, another source of phosphatidylserine, are often genetically modified and may contain antinutrients in their unfermented form.6

Mackerel and cod have high levels of phosphatidylserine.7 Other foods containing phosphatidylserine include egg yolks and organ meats, like chicken and beef liver. The problem is that even if you consume high quantities of these foods, certain factors may impede your body’s absorption, such as normal aging and gastrointestinal tract stress.8 Hence, many people resort to supplements to reap the benefits of this compound.

Benefits of Phosphatidylserine

The most renowned benefit of phosphatidylserine is its potential for improving brain function. This nutrient is essential for keeping brain cells healthy and optimally functioning. It’s also important for helping neurons conduct nerve impulses, supports your brain’s ability to repair existing brain cells and produce new ones, and increases fluidity of brain cells, so they effectively respond to stressors.9,10,11 Due to these effects on the brain, PS is believed to produce these brain health benefits:12

Boosts memory and cognitive function. A study found that supplementing with phosphatidylserine helped increase the speed of calculations done in short-term memory by 20 percent in a group of healthy adults.

Helps manage stress. It’s said that phosphatidylserine lowers cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and keeps it under control, especially during periods of stress.13 This may also help improve a person’s sleep.14

May help ease ADHD symptoms in children. PS not only improves their short-term auditory memory, but if taken along with DHA, it also helps improve the behavioral symptoms of the children.

Phosphatidylserine has also shown potential for boosting athletic performance. For example, it may prolong the time it takes for a person who is exercising to become tired.15 It also reduces the amount of negative hormonal response to exercise, as shown by several studies. It also aids recovery from physical injury and may help a person recover from reduced blood flow.16

Studies Show Phosphatidylserine’s Potential for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that affects more than 5 million Americans today, is now the sixth leading cause of death in the country today.17 There have been many studies conducted on this condition, and many natural remedies have shown potential, one of them being phosphatidylserine.18

According to a 2007 research published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, phosphatidylserine helps prevent the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain. Since the hereditary form of this disease is associated with amyloid beta formation, this suggests that PS may help slow down the disease’s progression or even prevent it completely.19

What’s more, Alzheimer’s disease prompts the brain to use glucose less efficiently, which is something that phosphatidylserine may also provide benefits for — it actually helps improve glucose metabolism in brains affected by this condition.20

Phosphatidylserine’s Recommended Dosage

The standard dose of phosphatidylserine is 300 milligrams (mg) daily: three 100 mg doses taken three times a day. According to Examine, this amount may be effective to help prevent cognitive decline. However, even daily doses of 100 mg may provide some level of benefit.

In children and adolescents who are struggling with ADHD, 200 mg per day may be beneficial. Non-elderly adults, meanwhile, may benefit from 200 to 400 mg doses.21

However, prior to taking PS, always consult your doctor to make sure it is safe for you, especially if you are struggling with any health condition. There is also insufficient evidence regarding the safety of this supplement for pregnant or breastfeeding women, so take heed before using it.22

Phosphatidylserine’s Potential Side Effects

There have been reported side effects such as stomach upset and insomnia after taking 300 mg doses of phosphatidylserine. There is also concern that phosphatidylserine made from animal sources might expose the user to illnesses like mad cow disease, albeit there are still no known cases of humans suffering from these diseases after taking phosphatidylserine.23 There are plant-based supplements, available, but be careful: These may be made from soy,24 although some are made from cabbage.25

Try These Tips to Boost Your Brain Health

Don’t believe the adage that aging causes your brain to slow down or become unreliable — there actually are steps you can take to help improve your cognitive function. Taking phosphatidylserine may be an effective approach; however, there are lifestyle strategies you can follow as well, such as:

Get enough exercise. Being physically active produces biochemical changes that strengthen your body and brain.

Reduce your intake of carbohydrates, including grains and sugar. You can also try intermittent fasting, which can reduce your overall calorie consumption.

Get more healthy fats. They are essential for the optimal function of your brain and body. Avocado, free range eggs, coconuts and coconut oil, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, and raw milk and butter are ideal options. You should balance your omega-3 to -6 ratio as well.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Phosphatidylserine

Q: What does phosphatidylserine do?

A: Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an amino acid derivative that is highly prevalent in the neural tissue of humans. In the brain, PS is essential for the creation of the phospholipid bilayer, which acts as a “gatekeeper” that regulates what goes in and out of your cells.

Q: Is phosphatidylserine safe?

A: If taken in the correct doses, phosphatidylserine is potentially safe for most adults and children. However, there are no studies confirming its safety for pregnant or breastfeeding mothers.

Q: What is phosphatidylserine used for?

A: Phosphatidylserine has shown potential for improving brain function, and may be used to keep brain cells healthy and optimally functioning. It may also have potential benefits for athletic potential.

Q: Does phosphatidylserine work?

A: Studies on phosphatidylserine have shown positive benefits, even for Alzheimer’s disease. However, more research is needed to confirm this.

Q: Can phosphatidylserine cause anxiety?

A: On the contrary, phosphatidylserine may actually have a benefit against anxiety and stress, as it helps curbs and manage the hormone cortisol.

Q: Where can I buy phosphatidylserine?

A: Online shops and health stores typically sell phosphatidylserine supplements. Make sure you find a high-quality brand made by a trustworthy manufacturer.

[+]Sources and References [-]Sources and References

  • 1 DrugBank, “Phosphatidylserine,” November 7, 2017
  • 2 University of Michigan, Michigan Medicine, “Phosphatidylserine,” December 2017
  • 3, 22, 23 WebMD, “Phosphatidylserine,” 2009
  • 4, 21 Examine.com, Phosphatidylserine
  • 5 Be Brain Fit, 6 Ways Phosphatidylserine Benefits Memory, Stress and Cognitive Decline
  • 6 Livestrong, October 3, 2017
  • 7, 18 Superfoods Scientific Research, “Phosphatidylserine Benefits and Side Effects,” November 15, 2012
  • 8 HowStuffWorks, Phosphatidylserine
  • 9 Psychology Today, June 9, 2016
  • 10 Life Extension Magazine, January 2011
  • 11 Biochem J. 1984 May 15;220(1):301-7.
  • 12 Self Hacked, October 11, 2017
  • 13 Livestrong, August 14, 2017
  • 14 Nootriment, How Phosphatidylserine Blocks Cortisol for Insomnia, Sleep and Weight Loss
  • 15 Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006 Jan;38(1):64-71.
  • 16 J Nucl Med March 1, 2003 vol. 44 no. 3 397-399
  • 17 ALZ.org, 2017 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures
  • 19 Free Radic Biol Med. 2007 Apr 1;42(7):945-54.
  • 20, 25 Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 1990;1:197–201
  • 24 WebMD, May 18, 2017