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Are You Getting Enough Phosphatidylserine?

Krista H January 3, 2019

If you have not yet heard of phosphatidylserine, you’re not alone. Most people are unaware of this phospholipid, yet it is present in every human cell. With its many functions, it plays a critical role in human health, especially when it comes to your organs, tissues, and particularly, your brain.

Being a key building block for brain cells, it has been researched in regards to its potentially beneficial impact on Alzheimer’s diseases, depression, ADHD, and other forms of age-related cognitive decline. Now that you’re familiar with this fatty substance, you may be wondering, am I getting enough?

Phosphatidylserine

What Exactly Is Phosphatidylserine and How Do I Get It?

Phosphatidylserine is referred to as a phospholipid, which is simply a lipid that contains a phosphate group, consisting of both fatty and amino acids. Working with the infamous omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, phosphatidylserine helps build healthy cell membranes.

Although your body can technically produce phosphatidylserine, the majority is obtained from various food sources. While the highest concentrations are found in animal-based foods, specifically organ meats, some experts have questioned whether or not food sources are the best option.

For example, the highest concentration of phosphatidylserine is found in cow brains. This has raised concerns, particularly based on current conventional factory farming practices and the potential risk of mad cow disease. Additionally, soybeans also provide phosphatidylserine but once again, this source is often highly modified and may contain anti-nutrients — which reduce your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients.

From egg yolks to mackerel, there are a few other sources available. However, even if you consume high quantities of phosphatidylserine-rich foods, there are certain factors that reduce absorption, including gastrointestinal stress and the normal aging process. This is why many people seek a quality phosphatidylserine supplement.

Phosphatidylserine

Why You Need Phosphatidylserine

As stated above, phosphatidylserine is a fatty substance that covers and in turn, protects nerve cells. Helping to transmit messages, it is believed to reduce the impact of age-related decline, as it seems to improve memory, attention, and even language skills.

Since the brain naturally produces phosphatidylserine, many experts agree that it is vital for optimal brain health and everyday function.

Today, phosphatidylserine supplements are taken as a potential natural remedy for various health conditions, including depression, multiple sclerosis, ADHD, and even Alzheimer’s. However, healthy individuals can also benefit, as phosphatidylserine is believed to naturally increase concentration and mental focus.

Here is what the available research says, particularly in regards to phosphatidylserine in its dietary supplement form.

 

Memory and overall cognition

Often taken to try and prevent age-related memory loss, phosphatidylserine has been shown to support elderly individuals living with mild cognitive impairment. In this 2010 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 78 elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment were randomly assigned to a placebo group or a soy-derived phosphatidylserine group.

After six months, it was found that the subjects in the phosphatidylserine group who had relatively low scores at baseline, showcased a significant improvement in memory scores while the placebo group remained unchanged. It was concluded that phosphatidylserine may improve memory functions, particularly among the elderly with memory complaints.

Overall, phosphatidylserine is being closely studied to determine whether or not supplementation can reduce age-related cognitive decline. Since the natural aging process impairs neurotransmission, researchers are aiming to reduce the impact of structural deterioration and biochemical alterations.

After studying 127 articles, it was concluded that phosphatidylserine supports cognitive functions, including the consolidation of long-term memory, the formation of short-term memory, the ability to create new memories and retrieve memories, the ability to focus, the ability to learn and recall information, the ability to solve problems, the ability to communicate, and overall language skills. It may also support locomotor functions, particularly reflexes.

In addition, phosphatidylserine may support those living with Parkinson’s. Since Parkinson’s patients tend to have low levels of phosphatidylserine, supplementation may improve brain function and mood. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and may also fight the effects associated with familial dysautonomia.

Phosphatidylserine

ADHD

Those living with ADHD experience differences in brain development and brain activity, affecting their attention and level of self-control. Although this disorder is most commonly associated with children and teens, it can and often does continue into adulthood.

To better understand this disorder, researchers studied the impact of omega-3 fish oil combined with phosphatidylserine, with the hopes to better improve impulsiveness. This study involved 200 children with ADHD and after six months of supplementation, those in the experimental group showed significant improvements in comparison to those in the placebo group.

Improving symptoms such as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and restlessness, these positive effects were also seen in children who were initially taking the placebo but then switched to the active treatment for the remaining fifteen weeks. Similarly, in this study, phosphatidylserine was shown to improve ADHD symptoms, as well as short-term auditory memory in children.

Depression

Unfortunately, depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States among people ages 15 to 44. Affecting more than 16 million Americans, major depressive disorder can result in debilitating symptoms. Since antidepressants come with a long list of potential side effects, many are looking for alternative options, including phosphatidylserine.

Since phosphatidylserine is believed to play a key role in mood, researchers are interested in how phosphatidylserine supplementation influences depression scores. In this 2015 study, it was concluded that phosphatidylserine supplements (in addition to omega-3 fatty acids) may be effective for late-life depression.

Athletic Performance

Since phosphatidylserine is known to reduce stress levels, it is now being studied in relation to sports performance. Since strenuous physical activity often challenges a variety of physiological systems, impacting cellular function and in turn, performance, phosphatidylserine is a key area of interest.

As reported in this review, short-term oral supplementation (750 mg of phosphatidylserine per day for ten days) was shown to improve exercise capacity during high-intensity cycling and increased overall performance during intermittent running. This is because phosphatidylserine is highly effective when aiming to raise blood choline levels, naturally improving performance and endurance.

Bottom line: Although more research needs to be conducted at this time, there is a lot of quality research available, spanning from Parkinson’s research to studies on sports performance. While most of the available studies are small (studying fewer than 25 subjects), the results are tough to ignore.

At this point, researchers have determined that phosphatidylserine is efficiently absorbed by healthy adults when taken as a supplement. Subjects have safely taken phosphatidylserine for at least six months, at a dosage of 300 mg/day — in some cases, the dosage was higher.

While phosphatidylserine may benefit a number of physiological processes, it has shown to have the greatest impact on cognitive functions in regards to mental focus, learning, and memory.

Phosphatidylserine

Are You Getting Enough Phosphatidylserine?

With so many benefits associated with ample phosphatidylserine levels, you’re likely wondering whether or not your body (and brain) get enough.

For starters, since your body does naturally manufacture phosphatidylserine, serious deficiencies do not typically exist. However, the available research shows that additional supplementation may improve various functions, especially in relation to the brain.

Since you likely only have around 60 grams of naturally occurring phosphatidylserine in your body, this amount will not have a significant effect on your brain health. A dosage of around 300 mg per day would be needed in order to potentially experience some of the benefits discussed above.

It is also important to note that as we age, mental cognition declines. As cell membranes become more rigid, the level of communication between brain cells will begin to slow down. That is why phosphatidylserine may be useful when aiming to prolong brain health and may become more critical with age.

Like any supplement, it is important to first speak with your physician, especially if you are taking other medications. Phosphatidylserine may have a blood-thinning effect, which can be problematic for people taking medications such as warfarin. However, for the most part, phosphatidylserine does not produce side effects among healthy users.

If you are new to supplementation, know that they are not all created equal. That is why you need to be mindful of the form, dose, and quality of the supplements you take. Learn more about that here.

As the research on phosphatidylserine continues, it is critical that you take care of your mind and body today. In many ways, you are in direct control of your health and in turn, your future. For more information, please refer to the following guides and remember to make your health a priority today!

Krista H
Krista majored in psychology and neuroscience, focusing on degenerative conditions, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. As she continued her research, she began to study the complex relationship between lifestyle variables and neurological health, including the impact these variables have on mood disorders and general wellness. She currently specializes in all aspects of neurological and physiological health, especially in relation to nutrition.
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