The Benefits of Phosphatidylserine

Can it keep your mind sharp and protect against illness?

Memory reminders
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Phosphatidylserine is a fatty substance produced in the body that covers and protects nerve cells (especially within the brain) and helps transmits messages between them. 

As an essential component of cell membranes, phosphatidylserine is thought to have a key role in keeping your memory sharp as you get older. (Studies in animals suggest that levels decline with age.)

Phosphatidylserine is found naturally in certain foods and is also sold in dietary supplement form.

Uses for Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine supplements are touted as a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions, including:

In addition, phosphatidylserine supplements are purported to preserve memory, promote healthy sleep, improve mood, and enhance exercise performance.

The Benefits of Phosphatidylserine

A handful of studies have explored the health effects of phosphatidylserine supplements, however, most of the studies are small and dated. Here's a look at some key findings:

1) Exercise Capacity and Muscle Soreness

Phosphatidylserine supplements may help boost exercise capacity and improve athletic performance, according to a 2006 report published in Sports Medicine. In their analysis of the available research on the use of phosphatidylserine supplements among people who exercised, the report's authors also found that phosphatidylserine may help decrease muscle soreness and protect against the increase in levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) that often occurs as a result of overtraining.

Related: Natural Relief for Sore Muscles

2) Memory

Phosphatidylserine is often taken to try to slow age-related memory loss. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 78 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to six months of treatment with phosphatidylserine supplements, or a placebo.

In tests performed at the end of the six-month period, participants with relatively low memory scores at the start of the study were found to have experienced a significant improvement in memory.

Related: Natural Ways to Improve Memory

3) Depression

Phosphatidylserine is thought to play a role in helping to regulate mood. In a 2015 study published in Mental Illness, for instance, people over the age of 65 with major depression took a supplement containing phosphatidylserine and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA three times daily for 12 weeks. At the study's end, scores on a depression scale had improved. More research is needed from large-scale, well-designed clinical studies before phosphatidylserine can be recommended.

Related: 8 Natural Depression Remedies

4) ADHD

Using phosphatidylserine in combination with omega-3 fatty acids may aid in the treatment of ADHD in children, suggests a 2012 study published in European Psychiatry. For the study, 200 children with ADHD were assigned to 15 weeks of treatment with either a placebo or a supplement containing phosphatidylserine and omega-3 fatty acids.

Study results revealed that participants treated with the combination of phosphatidylserine and omega-3 fatty acids experienced a significantly greater reduction in hyperactive/impulsive behavior and a greater improvement in mood (compared to those given the placebo).

Possible Side Effects

Phosphatidylserine may trigger a number of side effects, including insomnia, gas, and stomach upset.

Phosphatidylserine may have a blood-thinning effect. If you are taking blood-thinning medication (like warfarin) or anti-inflammatory medication or have blood-clotting problems, you should speak with your doctor before taking phosphatidylserine. It shouldn't be taken within two weeks of a scheduled surgery.

Most phosphatidylserine is made from soy. 

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label.

Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can also get tips on using supplements here

Food Sources

Phosphatidylserine is available in a number foods, including soy, white beans, egg yolks, chicken liver, and beef liver.

The Takeaway

Although the small studies have shown some benefits, there's a lack of high-quality human research to support the many claims. It may be wise to stick with other methods until we know more.

To maintain your memory and brain functioning, try adding exercise, mental activity, and these foods to your diet. Research suggests that physical activity can increase the size of areas of the brain (like the hippocampus) that are important for memory. 

If you're still thinking of trying phosphatidylserine, be sure to consult your primary care provider first and avoid self-treating and avoiding or delaying standard care.

Sources:

Kato-Kataoka A, Sakai M, Ebina R, Nonaka C, Asano T, Miyamori T. Soybean-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory function of the elderly Japanese subjects with memory complaints. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2010 Nov;47(3):246-55.

Kingsley M. Effects of phosphatidylserine supplementation on exercising humans. Sports Med. 2006;36(8):657-69.

Komori T. The Effects of Phosphatidylserine and Omega-3 Fatty Acid-Containing Supplement on Late Life Depression. Ment Illn. 2015 Apr 1;7(1):5647.

Manor I, Magen A, Keidar D, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine containing Omega3 fatty-acids on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder symptoms in children: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial, followed by an open-label extension. Eur Psychiatry. 2012 Jul;27(5):335-42.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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