As a supplement, phosphatidylserine can boost memory, relieve stress, and treat cognitive decline and ADHD. Learn about its many benefits for your brain.
What you’ll learn about the benefits of phosphatidylserine in this article:
- What phosphatidylserine is and why it’s essential for healthy brain cells
- The beneficial effects of phosphatidylserine on neurotransmitters and stress hormones
- Why phosphatidylserine is the only supplement allowed by the FDA to make qualified cognitive health claims
- How phosphatidylserine reduces symptoms of ADHD
- The best sources, dosages, side effects, and interactions of phosphatidylserine supplements
Phosphatidylserine is a type of fat that naturally occurs in every cell in your body.
It’s found in particularly high concentrations in the brain.
In fact, half of your body’s total phosphatidylserine resides in your nervous system. (1)
Phosphatidylserine is also a highly regarded natural brain supplement.
It is one of the few brain supplements that’s been proven safe and effective for people of all ages from children to seniors.
Phosphatidylserine has shown potential for treating stress and memory-related issues, ADHD, age-related cognitive decline, and even dementia.
1. Phosphatidylserine Is Essential for Healthy Brain Cells
Phosphatidylserine, which is often called simply PS, is an essential nutrient for healthy, optimally-functioning brain cells.
This structure allows phospholipids to neatly arrange themselves into two parallel layers called a phospholipid bilayer.
This layer forms a major component of human brain cell membranes. (2)
The cell membrane acts as a gatekeeper, regulating the flow of what gets in and out of brain cells. (3)
It lets in nutrients, water, and oxygen while letting metabolic waste out.
By supporting brain cell membrane integrity, phosphatidylserine helps keep toxins, pathogens, and other unwanted invaders out of your brain.
There are other ways phosphatidylserine supports a healthy brain.
Neurons need phosphatidylserine to conduct nerve impulses. (4)
It is essential for preserving neuroplasticity — your brain’s ability to repair existing brain cells and create new ones. (5)
Phosphatidylserine increases brain cell fluidity, enabling cells to stay adaptable and effectively respond to stressors. (6)
2. Phosphatidylserine Increases Levels of Important Neurotransmitters
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that brain cells use to communicate with each other.
They are responsible for just about every aspect of your life.
They determine how happy you are, how well you sleep, relax, and handle stress, how effectively you concentrate, learn, and remember, your libido, and much more.
It’s estimated that 86% of us have low levels of these brain chemicals. (7)
Phosphatidylserine encourages the release of three major neurotransmitters — serotonin, dopamine, and acetylcholine. (8)
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Serotonin is called the “happiness molecule,” dopamine is the “motivation molecule,” and acetylcholine is the brain chemical associated with memory and learning.
Additionally, phosphatidylserine speeds up communication between brain cells for faster thinking. (9)
3. Phosphatidylserine Reduces the Stress Hormone Cortisol
For many of us, life seems to be one crisis after another.
If this sounds like you, you may well be experiencing the effects of continuous production of the stress hormone cortisol.
Chronically elevated cortisol has some serious health implications.
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It also wreaks havoc with your brain and mental well-being.
No wonder cortisol has been called “public enemy #1.” (16)
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Phosphatidylserine Also Increases Performance in Athletes
During these studies, it was discovered that besides reducing cortisol, phosphatidylserine also increased physical performance, speeded recovery, and reduced post-exercise muscle soreness. (22)
This is a win-win for anyone who exercises regularly since physical exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain!
4. Phosphatidylserine: Proven Protector Against Age-Related Mental Decline
As a supplement, phosphatidylserine can be safely used by young and old alike for memory enhancement.
It’s a favorite supplement used by students to enhance cognitive skills such as memory, concentration, and learning to improve exam performance. (23)
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It’s suspected that phosphatidylserine levels naturally decline with age and that taking supplements can be of particular benefit to seniors.
Dr. Thomas Crook, former chairman of the National Institute of Mental Health, studied memory impairment extensively. (24)
He believed that phosphatidylserine can turn back the brain’s ability to remember by 12 to 14 years. (25)
Phosphatidylserine is protective against age-related mental decline and shows promise for treating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and the accompanying depression often experienced by seniors. (26)
One of the responsibilities of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to prevent manufacturers from making false claims about their products.
But, in an unusual move, the FDA has granted phosphatidylserine manufacturers the right to make these qualified claims on the bottle label and in their marketing materials: (27)
- “consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly”
- “consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly”
Phosphatidylserine is the only brain supplement that’s been granted permission to make these qualified health claims.
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5. Phosphatidylserine Reduces Symptoms of ADHD
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a mental disorder characterized by impulsiveness, inattentiveness, and excessive activity.
Unfortunately, it affects more than 10% of school-age children. (28)
The standard medical treatments are medication and psychotherapy. (29)
But few people would disagree, medical professionals included, that treating kids with prescription stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin is not an ideal solution and should be used only as a last resort.
Phosphatidylserine supplementation may be a safe and effective natural alternative for treating ADHD.
Prescription Phosphatidylserine for ADHD
These findings have led to the development of Vayarin, a medical food prescribed for children with ADHD.
It consists of phosphatidylserine plus small amounts of two omega-3 fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). (32)
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One study found that 60% of the children who took Vayarin for three months reported some benefit. (33)
Vayarin costs around $60 per month and is not covered by insurance.
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6. Phosphatidylserine Enhances Other Brain Supplements
One surprising benefit of phosphatidylserine is that it works synergistically to enhance the effects of some other notable brain supplements.
Curcumin, the active compound found in the spice turmeric, is one of the best all-around brain enhancers.
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Curcumin helps protect your brain from aging and breaks up brain plaques associated with Alzheimer’s. (37)
However, there’s a big problem with taking either curcumin or turmeric supplements.
Curcumin is extremely poorly absorbed.
Up to 85% of it passes through the intestines unused. (38)
One way to increase the bioavailability of curcumin is to take it with phosphatidylserine. (39)
You can either take these two supplements individually or find a curcumin supplement that contains phosphatidylserine.
Other noteworthy brain supplements that work synergistically with phosphatidylserine are fish oil and Ginkgo biloba. (40)
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Why Phosphatidylserine Is Rare in the Modern Diet
Most of us get our first serving of phosphatidylserine when we are infants, since it’s a natural component of human breast milk.
Phosphatidylserine is found in many foods, but mostly in animal foods unusual in the modern diet.
Top sources are cow brains, Atlantic mackerel, chicken hearts, eel, and offal. (41)
There are only two common foods with appreciable amounts of phosphatidylserine — tuna and white beans which contain 194 mg and 107 mg per 3.5 ounce serving respectively.
The average diet contains 130 mg of phosphatidylserine, but the therapeutic dosage is considered to be 300 mg per day. (42)
Unless you regularly eat phosphatidylserine-rich foods, you almost certainly could benefit from taking supplemental phosphatidylserine.
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The Best Source of Phosphatidylserine Supplements
Initially, phosphatidylserine supplements were derived from cow brains.
But due to concerns of mad cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), bovine phosphatidylserine is no longer sold in North America.
Bovine phosphatidylserine is available to researchers and often used in clinical trials, but is not available for public use.
(For the record, there are no recorded cases of humans contracting mad cow disease from phosphatidylserine supplements.) (43)
Most phosphatidylserine supplements are derived from soy with a few brands being made from sunflower oil.
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However, keep in mind that there are no studies supporting that sunflower-derived phosphatidylserine bestows the same brain benefits as that from soy. (44)
There’s an additional ongoing debate as to whether soy phosphatidylserine is as effective as bovine for enhancing mood, memory, and cognition since animal and vegetable-based phosphatidylserine have slightly different chemical structures. (45)
Phosphatidylserine Supplement Dosages
There is no RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for phosphatidylserine, nor have optimal doses for specific conditions been established. (46)
The general recommended dosage is 100 mg taken 3 times a day. (47)
However, dosages of 600 mg per day have been deemed safe in seniors. (48)
Phosphatidylserine is one of the few brain supplements with dosages determined for children.
A typical dose for children and young teens is 200 mg per day.
Phosphatidylserine Side Effects and Interactions
The most common side effects of phosphatidylserine supplements are digestive upset and insomnia, particularly when daily doses higher than the recommended 300 mg are taken.
Phosphatidylserine should be avoided if you take blood thinning or anti-inflammatory drugs. (49)
It should not be taken along with certain anticholinergic drugs — antihistamines and antidepressants — as it may decrease their effectiveness.
If you take any medications that increase acetylcholine, talk to your doctor before taking phosphatidylserine.
These drugs are usually prescribed for Alzheimer’s and include Aricept, Exelon, and Razadyne. (50)
Since phosphatidylserine also increases acetylcholine, it can alter these drugs’ effectiveness and amplify their side effects.
Lastly, since there’s no reliable data on the safety of phosphatidylserine for pregnant or breastfeeding women, supplements should be avoided. (51)
Phosphatidylserine Benefits: The Bottom Line
Phosphatidylserine is an integral part of healthy brain cell membranes and normalizes levels of important neurotransmitters and stress hormones.
It is one of the few brain supplements with proven benefits for our most vulnerable populations — seniors and children.
And it is the only brain supplement that has received a qualified stamp of approval from the FDA for age-related cognitive decline and dementia in seniors.
For these reasons and more, phosphatidylserine qualifies as a very effective brain and memory supplement.