(Verywellmind) – Phosphatidylserine is a fatty substance produced in the body that covers and protects every cell in the body. It’s particularly vital for the proper functioning of nerve cells within the brain, helping to transmit messages between them.
As an essential component of healthy nerve 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. Phosphatidylserine supplements are touted as a natural remedy for a variety of health conditions, including:
- Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
In addition, phosphatidylserine supplements are purported to preserve memory, promote healthy sleep, improve mood, and enhance exercise performance.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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’re taking blood-thinning medication like Coumadin (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 scheduled surgery.
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’s 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.
Dosage and Preparation
A 2015 review article noted that 300 milligrams to 800 milligrams a day of phosphatidylserine are absorbed efficiently in humans, and according to the Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database, therapeutic doses for a failing memory is 100 milligrams taken two or three times per day.
You can boost your intake of phosphatidylserine though food—it’s available in a number of foods, including soy (which is the main source), white beans, egg yolks, chicken liver, and beef liver. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for your body to absorb sufficient amounts from dietary sources.
What to Look For
Keep in mind that most of the phosphatidylserine used in studies was derived from the brain cells of cows. Because of safety concerns about mad cow disease, most supplements are now produced from soy or cabbage. Preliminary studies have shown that plant-based phosphatidylserine supplements may also offer benefits (for instance, the 2010 study on memory used soy-based phosphatidylserine), but more research is needed. However, phosphatidylserine doesn’t seem to be a current focus of research, suggesting its limited effect.
A Word From Verywell
Although small studies have shown some benefits, there’s a lack of high-quality human research to support the many claims for phosphatidylserine. It may be wise to stick with other methods until more is known.
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.