Phosphytidalserine: Overview

Phosphatidylserine (PS) belongs to a group of fat-soluble substances called phospholipids, which are essential components of cell membranes.  PS is found in high concentrations in the brain.

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Phosphatidylserine is the major phospholipid in the brains of humans and animals and plays crucial roles in maintaining healthy brain function.  It is a naturally-occurring phospholipid, essential for the membranes of all cells, particularly in the brain.  Hence it is another 'smart drug'.


Phosphatidylserine is found in only trace amounts in a typical diet; very small amounts are present in lecithin.  The body manufactures PS from phospholipid building blocks.

PS may be derived from soy or bovine sources, but concerns about the possibility of humans contracting infectious diseases such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob ("mad cow") disease mean that bovine PS is not available in the United States.  Soy- and bovine-derived PS are not structurally identical, but it is not known at the time of writing whether these differences are significant.

PS supplements are now derived from lecithin and have been shown to easily cross the blood brain barrier after administration.

Function; Why it is Recommended

Functions of PS include: increasing acetylcholine release and synthesis, increasing metabolism of glucose in the brain, enhancing enzymes involved in the release of neurotransmitters, modulating proper fluidity of cell membranes and preventing the aging of neurons.

Phosphatidylserine is not an essential nutrient, and therefore dietary deficiencies do not occur.  Adults aged 50 and older – especially those with age-related cognitive decline – may not synthesize enough PS, and appear most likely to benefit from supplementation.

Research also points to PS functioning to reduce cortisol secretion in response to stress – an important finding since depressed subjects are shown to have high cortisol levels.  Numerous double blind studies utilizing oral PS reveal significant improvement in depressed and mentally impaired elderly subjects.

PS has some promising effects in stress-related brain decline that take its toll over the decades.  Stress causes the pituitary gland to secrete an adrenal cortisol stimulator, ACTH.  Two studies from Italy have shown that PS is able to blunt the ACTH and cortisol response to stressors.  This means that individuals whose hypnosis-pituitary-A drive is overstimulated may be able to take oral PS to reduce this bad response to stress.

PS has been effective in improving memory in Alzheimer's disease cases, and may even prevent or delay onset of Alzheimer's.

The benefits of phosphatidylserine supplementation on the improvement of mood, memory, behavior, and depression have been demonstrated in numerous well-designed studies on both animals and human subjects.

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Phosphytidalserine can help with the following:


Alzheimer's Disease

Although not a cure, placebo-controlled and double-blind studies involving patients with early Alzheimer's disease have shown mild benefits from 300mg per day of PS supplementation when used for three to twelve weeks.  In one double-blind study, the improvement on standardized tests of mental functioning averaged approximately 15%. [Fünfgeld EW, Baggen M, Nedwidek P, et al. Double-blind study with phosphatidylserine (PS) in Parkinsonian patients with senile dementia of Alzheimer's type (SDAT). Prog Clin Biol Res 1989;317:1235-46]  Continued improvement has been reported up to three months beyond the end of the supplementation period.

Note, however, that PS probably only slows the rate of deterioration rather than halting the progression altogether.  For example, in a six-month trial, benefits began to fade after the fourth month.

Lab Values

Elevated Cortisol Levels

Taking 100mg up to three times a day supports and revitalizes nerve cells and has been shown in numerous studies to slow or reverse cognitive losses attributed to aging.  PS is found in every cell in the body, but perhaps most significant is its ability to lower the level of stress hormones such as cortisol which damage brain cells and lead to the accumulation of calcified plaques in the brain.  Plaques of this type have been observed in Alzheimer's patients.  PS also helps brain cells communicate and improves both memory and the ability to concentrate.


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