The supplement known by phosphatidylserine is also sometimes written phosphatidyl serine, but it’s the same substance. Commonly used as a nootropic, or a drug that can potentially boost brain performance, phosphatidylserine shows a great deal of promise in helping preserve and improve cognitive function. It also has been shown to decrease undesirable behaviors such as hyperactivity, and may even be linked with a better night’s sleep.
What is Phosphatidylserine?
Phosphatidylserine is a specific type of phospholipid known as an aminophospholipid, which contains both amino acids and fatty acids. While it is found throughout the body, making up cell membranes that surround each cell, it is found in large quantities within the brain. In addition to covering the cells and providing a protective layer, phosphatidylserine helps to carry messages between cells, particularly within the brain.
Phosphatidylserine appears to be a necessary component to keep your brain working the way it should, and your memory as “sharp as a tack.” Unfortunately, as researchers have found with animal studies, the amount of phosphatidylsterine within the brain decreases as you age.
The phosphatidylserine structure features two fatty acids that are attached with an ester linkage. A serine molecule is also attached through a phosphodiester linkage to the glycerol molecule that makes up the backbone of the structure. You can get phosphatidylserine from both plant and animal sources, but the fatty acid composition differs between these two categories of organisms.
Phosphatidylserine is often taken in order to try and prevent memory loss or mental decline, which is a common occurrence as people age. The supplement may help bolster your brain power, as people who have taken it in studies had higher short-term memory function, as well as increased concentration and mood.
Phosphatidylserine has also been used to help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, although more research needs to be done on this. Other disease processes where scientists are using phosphatidylserine include multiple sclerosis and even muscle soreness, when active athletes overtrain, and strain their muscles.
What Are Phospholipids and Why Are They Important?
Phospholipids are extremely important to normal cell functioning. Cells are surrounded mostly by phospholipids, which have a hydrophilic head that bonds with water, as well as a hydrophobic or water fearing tail. Around the cell as part of the membrane, phospholipids line themselves up into two parallel layers, with different channels located randomly around the layer, to allow cell messengers to be transported.
Phospholipids have many important functions. First, as a bilayer around cells, they form a barrier that only lets certain molecules pass through, or out of the cell, such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. Phospholipids can be used within the body as a signal transducer, relaying messages between cells. Under certain circumstances, such as when the body is facing an infection, phospholipids can split and form a second messenger, signaling that a leukocyte should migrate to the site of infection. Sphingomyelin is a type of phospholipid that has both structural and functional importance, as it forms the layer of insulation that helps to protect your nerves, and helps allow the conduction of nervous impulses.
Phospholipids are also very important in digestive processes. Phospholipids can form clusters in order to move vitamins, fat-containing molecules, and other nutrients out of the digestive tract so they can move throughout the body. Phospholipids found within the stomach are responsible for helping to break down fat, while phospholipids found within bile help to emulsify fats, allowing them to be carried throughout the blood stream.
Phosphatidylserine Benefits and Uses
Phosphatidylserine and the Brain
The main reason that people take phosphatidylserine is to preserve brain function. While there have not been conclusive studies that show that this supplement can preserve cognitive function in otherwise healthy people, there is definitely a positive correlation based on studies. One study showed that phosphatidylserine that comes from soybeans was linked to improved memory function within a population of elderly test subjects. The likely reason is that this supplement decreases stress and excitation, which also results in an improvement in attention, leading to better memory recall. There is also the possibility that the supplement is linked with increased glucose utilization, leading to better cognition.
Phosphatidylserine can come from bovine brains, as well as being found in a plant-based formulation. Studies with people taking the bovine cortex formulation of phosphatidylserine have been linked to less cognitive decline in some subjects, although the soybean derived formulation is more commonly used. In one study, people with possible Alzheimer’s disease were treated with a medication that contained phosphatidylserine and were compared to people taking a placebo. These people improved across several cognitive measures as compared to the test subjects that were being given the placebo.
Supplements with phosphatidylserine have been looked at in relationship to memory and cognitive decline. In people with cognitive deficiencies, a study showed that phosphatidylserine has been linked to increases in memory. Studies have not been undertaken which look at improving memory in healthy people, although there is a definite link when studied in rodents. The likely cause is secondary to reducing stress levels.
Phosphatidylserine has also been linked to improved processing accuracy in healthy individuals when consumed in protein bars at a dosage of 400mg taken daily. In a post-exercise and fatigued state, the study showed that people taking the phosphatidylserine protein bars had increased speed of calculations or an increased processing speed, as well as a improvement in accuracy, although it did not appear to influence the test subject’s mood or level of fatigue.
Phosphatidylserine is also being studied in relationship to attention spans. One study has been looked at in people, particularly children, who have attention deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD. When taking phosphatidylserine, it appears that symptoms of hyperactivity are decreased, as well as attention deficits, potentially yielding better focus. It also appears that there is an improvement, especially when people take phosphatidylserine that has been complexed with fish oils. At the same time, this improvement in attention has not directly shown an increase in attention outright, so it is an area of further study.
Phosphatidylserine and Exercise
When people exercise, their bodies tend to release cortisol, which is also known as a stress hormone. In people that are taking the formulations of phosphatidylserine from cow brains, studies have shown that there is a decrease in stress-induced cortisol level increases. Unfortunately, some studies have been done on the most common formulations now sold, which are soybean based, and these have not been shown to decrease stress-induced cortisol levels, even at dosages up to 750mg.
Unrelated to the cortisol levels in the body, the time to exhaustion has also been studied in people that are supplementing with phosphatidylserine. An increase in the time until exhaustion has been noted in people who were cycling and took supplements that were soybean based phosphatidylserine supplements. It is important to note that the supplement appears to be most effective in people that were undertaking intense exercise, as opposed to people who were practicing mild to moderate intensity exercises. The study supports that phosphatidylserine may improve exercise capacity in people.
Interestingly, the effects of phosphatidylserine have also been looked at in relationship to golf performance. The study showed that there was an increase in golf drive accuracy in people consuming a protein bar that contained phosphatidylserine. Unfortunately, the reduction in perceived stress on golfers did not reach statistical significance, although it did trend with a positive correlation.
Phosphatidylserine and Sleep
As a phospholipid supplement, phosphatidylserine has been linked to more restful and deeper sleep. The likely reason for this, is that it stops the overproduction of cortisol within the body, allowing the levels to decrease, and lessen anxiety and stresses. As such, more restful sleep is produced, especially when used in combination with other supplements such as melatonin.
Phosphatidylserine and Anxiety
Phosphatidylserine has also been linked to decreased levels of anxiety. Fatty acid type supplementation, as well as that of phosphatidylserine, has shown to reduce measures of anxiety. They reduce the levels of cortisol released within the body. Phosphatidylserine also decreases the amount of corticotrophin releasing hormone, thereby further decreasing the amount of cortisol released within the body. This steroid hormone is associated with stress and anxiety, so lower amounts tend to reduce these feelings within a person. Supplementation with phosphatidylserine improves stress tolerance, in addition to having this anxiolytic effect.
Phosphatidylserine and Weight Loss
Phosphatidylserine has also been linked pretty closely with weight loss. By controlling elevated cortisol levels, it can stablize the levels in the body of this stress hormone. While small and short-term releases in cortisol can be beneficial to help handle changes in external stimuli, chronically elevated levels of cortisol are very harmful. High levels can lead to accelerated aging and obesity, to name a few potential consequences. By lowering these levels, phosphatidylserine helps your body regulate its metabolism, as well as reducing issues such as body inflammation. Supplementation with this brain supplement has been linked to improved endurance, as well as reductions in muscle damage, so this supplement appears to help with exercise and athletics, in addition to preserving brain function.
The normal amount of phosphatidylserine taken ranges between 300mg and 800mg taken per day. The general therapeutic dosage for people with a failing memory is 100 mg, taken up to three times per day.
Unfortunately, it is hard to determine an optimal dose for phosphatidylserine for any given condition. This is largely because the supplements that are on the market vary widely between manufacturers.
While you can boost your intake of phosphatidylserine by eating it, it is hard to absorb a sufficient amount from dietary sources. While you can consume it in a variety of products, from soy to white beans, the largest amounts are in organ meats such as liver, chicken hearts, and beef brains, which many people do not tend to consume.
Forms of Phosphatidylserine
Most phosphatidylserine supplements are oral supplements, typically in pill or capsule formulation, although some companies make supplements that are protein bars for exercise. Phosphatidylserine also comes in two major forms based on where the source of the supplement comes from. Early studies used phosphatidylserine that came from bovine, or cow, cortex brain samples. Unfortunately, with the spread of mad cow disease based on a prion, there was worry about this disease being spread to people in a disease called Creutzfeldt Jakob disease. Now plant sources are typically used, deriving phosphatidylserine from soy or cabbage most commonly.
Phosphatidylserine Side Effects
Phosphatidylserine supplementation appears to be pretty safe, with most people taking the supplement without any side effects. The supplement has been tested at levels of up to 600mg for less than 10 days, although it has been looked at for longer periods of time at lower supplementation levels.
Side effects of phosphatidylserine supplementation seem to be more common when people are taking doses higher than 300mg and most commonly include gastrointestinal side effects. The most common undesirable effects seem to be an increase in gas or flatulence, as well as stomach upset. People have also noted trouble sleeping when taking the supplement.
Things to Keep in Mind When Using Phosphatidylserine
Phosphatidylserine may have undesirable effects when taken with certain medications. As such, it is important to discuss it with your doctor before you start taking the supplement, especially if you take:
- Anti-inflammatory medications, such as those used for headaches or pain
- Performance enhancing supplements or drugs, such as those used to increase stamina or performance
- Blood thinners, such as warfarin, or in people who have a problem with blood clotting
Phosphatidylserine has been linked to several desirable characteristics as a nootropic medication, including an improvement in memory and attention, particularly in those with health issues such as cognitive decline and attention deficit disorders. More studies need to be performed in healthy people to support these links, but the supplement appears to be pretty safe for use. It has also been linked to increased memory processing and accuracy, especially in athletes, so it may be beneficial to those looking to lose weight. Further evaluations have also linked it to decreases in anxiety due to its effects on cortisol levels. Consider taking phosphatidylserine today for its numerous health benefits.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.