Summary

Phosphatidylserine or PS is a naturally occurring phospholipid (fatty acid polymer compound) that is found in all species. PS is a crucial component of the cellular membrane, a phospholipid layer that surrounds all cells and provides structure and protection.

In humans, PS makes up about 15% of the total phospholipid pool in the brain, with lower concentrations in the lungs, testes, kidneys, liver, skeletal muscle, heart, and blood. Humans typically store about 60 g of PS throughout the body, about half of which is found in neural tissue.

In the cellular membrane, PS works synergistically with omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA to keep the membrane flexible and fluid, promote cellular healing, take in crucial nutrients, and help flush out waste products. It’s also used by the body for bone formation, health and repair, regulating heartbeat, and maintaining the efficiency of the adrenal glands, especially in response to stress.

The body can synthesize PS, but it is largely assimilated through foods including soy lecithin, bovine brain, Atlantic herring and mackerel, tuna, chicken, turkey, cod, and beef. Though dietary and naturally synthesized PS may be sufficient to prevent deficiency in early life, as humans age, the body produces a smaller amount of PS and is less capable of metabolizing it from foods, so supplementation is important. Studies also suggest that supplemental PS is key to realizing the many therapeutic and nootropic benefits PS offers.

PS supplements were originally made from cow brains, but bovine PS is no longer used because of concerns about potential pathogens in animal tissue. PS supplements are now typically derived from soy lecithin, sunflower, and even cabbage.

Benefits and Effects

At the most basic level, PS helps the entire organism by keeping cellular membranes strong, flexible, fluid, and healthy. But studies show that supplemental PS offers a host of substantial benefits for both brain and body.

Improves Memory

PS is a tested and proven memory booster, particularly among the elderly. Japanese research involving adults aged 50 and over who had memory complaints showed that PS supplementation increased both overall memory scores and verbal recall.

PS supplementation on Alzheimer’s patients had similar positive results, significantly improving memory along with lifting mood and increasing verbal fluency.

Reduces the Negative Effects of Stress

PS is known to downregulate the release of cortisol, often referred to as “the stress hormone.” Cortisol is intended to provide the body with a boost of emergency energy under stressful situations; it does this by converting a portion of the body’s protein stores to glucose, which can fuel the “fight or flight” response. However, high cortisol levels over extended periods of time can lead to hyperglycemia, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, suppressed libido, and other serious physical problems. PS has been shown to significantly reduce concentrations of cortisol in subjects exposed to mental stressors.

Relieves Depression

Tests indicate that PS supplementation can substantially improve depressive symptoms in people of all ages. Trials involving geriatric patients of both sexes who experienced late-life depression showed that PS supplementation improved memory and reduced depression-related cognitive impairment.

In otherwise healthy young males, PS supplements improved emotional responses and reduced symptoms of distress.  In children with depressive disorder, supplementation with PS and omega-3 fatty acids improved attention and cognition and relieved depressive symptoms.

Boosts Endurance and Improves Athletic Performance

Research on PS’s ability to improve sports and athletic performance is ongoing, but there is evidence that PS supplementation can increase the amount of time that people can do strenuous exercise before reaching the point of exhaustion. This effect is believed to be due at least in part to the fact that PS helps keep the body’s choline levels stable, preventing the choline depletion associated with exhaustion and fatigue.

Relieves Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases

One of the most exciting possibilities for supplemental PS is as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Research has conclusively shown that PS increases learning ability, improves memory and verbal fluidity, and reduces brain inflammation in Alzheimer’s patients. PS has also been cited as a valuable adjunct therapy for Parkinson’s Disease, boosting the amount of dopamine available in the system and improving mood and brain function in Parkinson’s patients.

May Delay the Onset of Age-Related Cognitive Decline

The body’s internal systems and metabolism become less efficient as we age. The resulting deficiency of many critical hormones and brain chemicals can lead to substantial memory loss and other forms of cognitive impairment, but researchers believe that supplementation with PS and other nutrients can delay the onset of age-related cognition issues. Research is ongoing, but studies indicate that PS supplements effectively reduced memory problems in non-demented elderly people.

How it Works

The body primarily uses PS as a structural component of the double layer of lipids that forms the cellular membrane. In this capacity, PS appears to increase cell fluidity, facilitating the entrance of nutrients and the discharge of waste products.

PS is also involved in neural signaling, or transferring information from one nerve cell to another.

In addition, PS appears to modulate the production of specific enzymes, upregulating some and downregulating others. PS decreases the production and release of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. This action effectively increases the amount of acetylcholine available to the brain, and this plays a major role in the compound’s nootropic properties. This action is also the basis for the use of PS as an Alzheimer’s disease treatment; one of the effects of Alzheimer’s is cholinergic hypofunction, which results in acetylcholine deficiency and cognitive decline. By inhibiting the enzymes that break down acetylcholine, PS helps maintain higher levels of this crucial neurotransmitter. At the same time, PS promotes the production of Na+/K+ stimulated ATPase, which pumps sodium out of cells and pumps potassium into them. This action is associated with PS’s ability to extend the time that physical activity can go on before a point of exhaustion is reached.

PS also affects mood, motivation, and cognition by decreasing the release of cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormone typically triggered by stress, and increasing the release of both serotonin (“the happiness molecule”) and dopamine (“the motivation molecule”). The ability to modulate the release of these critical compounds is in large part responsible for PS’s ability to lift mood and combat depression. It is also why PS is considered a valuable adjunct treatment for Parkinson’s disease, which is characterized by loss of dopamine production.

PS has further been shown to prevent the decay of dendritic spines, portions of nerve cells in the hippocampus that are crucial to information storage. Dendritic spines are known to decay with age, which negatively affects synaptic action and inhibits the transmission of information between cells. Loss of synaptic function directly correlates with cognitive decline, so PS’s action on dendritic spines is an integral part of its ability to restore memory and delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline.

PS may also increase Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) to support brain cell creation, maintenance, and repair, potentially making it a great supplement for building long-term lasting structural improvements to the brain.

Dosage

PS has been extensively and successfully tested on people of all ages, and it appears that a base dosage of 100 mg taken three times daily, for a total of 300 mg, is both safe and effective for preventing cognitive decline.

Appropriate dosage may vary depending on age, condition, and the results being sought; lower doses have been effective for some people, and tests involving adolescents and healthy non-elderly people typically involved higher doses (200-400mg).

As with all supplements, it is good practice to start with the lowest effective dosage and only increase as needed. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult their physicians before taking PS, as should those who are taking antidepressants, antihistamines, or medications for Alzheimer’s disease or glaucoma.

There have been concerns that PS derived from bovine brain tissue could transmit pathogens, including mad cow disease. Though no instance of such transmission has been documented, it’s safest to take PS synthesized from plants, which is just as effective as bovine-sourced PS and is widely available.

Side Effects

PS appears to be safe and very well tolerated when taken in doses of 300 mg or less daily.

Reported side effects include insomnia and upset stomach, but both of these effects are associated with higher dosages. PS has been safely administered to adults for more than six months and to children for up to 4 months with no adverse effects.

Stacking

Phosphatidylserine is commonly taken along with other cognitive enhancing supplements in order to maximize its position effects.

An Example All-Natural Stack

Phosphatidylserine Stack for Universal Cognitive Enhancement

For a preformulated nootropic that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing supplements, including phosphatidylserine, designed to optimize a wide array of cognitive functions, we recommend Mind Lab Pro.

Mind Lab Pro’s strategy aims at all aspects of memory, mental performance, mood and stress resistance, and brain repair, and maintenance. Their combination of nootropics is designed to affect brain energy, neurotransmitters, brain blood flow, brain waves, neuroprotection, and regeneration.

Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.

Where to Buy

Phosphatidylserine supplements are relatively easy to purchase.

We recommend buying phosphatidylserine online from PureNootropics.net, as they are a one-stop shop for cognitive enhancing supplements.

If you prefer doing your shopping on Amazon.com, we recommend sticking to NOW Phosphatidylserine Capsules as a source of high-quality phosphatidylserine.

Alternatively, if you’d like to take a supplement that contains a blend of 11 cognitive enhancing nootropics, including phosphatidylserine, we recommend Mind Lab Pro. Read our Mind Lab Pro review for a detailed overview.

Closing Thoughts

Phosphatidylserine doesn’t get a lot of publicity; it’s not rare, it’s not flashy, and it certainly doesn’t have a catchy name. Instead, it’s a quietly efficient multitasker that keeps both brain and body working at peak productivity.

It boosts levels of the brain chemicals that enhance mood, motivation, and cognition, and it effectively combats both stress and depression.

It can improve endurance so you can exercise longer and more efficiently, and it can keep your brain working better as you age. And while it’s doing all that, it also provides structure and protection to every cell in your body.

For anyone who is interested in maximizing their mental and physical capabilities and staying sharp as they age, phosphatidylserine is definitely a nootropic worth considering.

Planning to start a new supplementation regimen? See our medical disclaimer.