According to Examine.com, a website which sums up multiple scientific studies and gives the findings an easy to understand overview, Phosphatidylserine (PS) is an amino acid derivative compound. 

PS is fat-soluble and can be found in high levels in the brain where it helps cognitive functioning. According to these many studies, it may also improve memory in the elderly and lower cortisol, a stress hormone your body makes.

WebMD explains that PS for supplementation used to be primarily derived from cow brains but are now mostly manufactured from and cabbage due to concern that products like these made from animal sources may cause infections such as mad cow disease. The panic of mad cow disease it what initially caused the switch. 

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What Effects Does This Have on My Body?

The following are taken from results that have been compounded from multiple human studies. 

These results were given in a brief summary on Examine.com, and specifically exclude studies done in vitro and on animals so that we have a better understanding of Phosphatidylserine's effects on the human body.

1. Cognition

Cognitive decline: Studies have been done on older people with cognitive decline, specifically those with Alzheimer's disease. Some results have shown that there is a minor improvement in short-term memory wherein people are able to absorb information a little easier. It doesn't mean that PS helps us stop forgetting things, however.

One study has shown that Phosphatidylserine helps people perform an anaerobic exercise for longer without getting tired. It leads to a minor increase in mental processing speed and accuracy post-workout.

Multiple studies have shown high consistency in minorly reducing cognitive decline in those experiencing it, but these are only the results of studies using the bovine cortex variation of PS, i.e., made from cow brains instead of the more readily available supplements which are soy-based. Soy-based PS may also have these effects, but more research is needed.

2. Stress Relief

Exercise-Induced Cortisol: It has been observed that Phosphatidylserine can reduce post-workout cortisol only when it is of the bovine cortex variety.

Possible Minor Stress Relief: Independent of cortisol and heart rate, there may be other minor stress-reducing effects of PS, but the studies done on this don't seem to have been able to confirm these effects as reliable. They may vary significantly in different people, and there aren't many studies to go on at this time this article is being written.

3. ADHD

Studies show that Phosphatidylserine helps reduce the attention deficit aspect of ADHD by at least a little. It in turn helps those with ADHD pay attention with less difficulty.

There have been results that show minor improvement in working memory in study participants. But it is speculated that this is because of improved attention. You can't remember anything if you weren't paying attention in the first place!

PS also seems to reduce hyperactivity in children given the supplement, and it is speculated that it may be more effective when taken with fish oils, because of PS's fat-soluble nature.

4. Cerebral Glucose Utilization

People with Alzheimer's were seen to have increased glucose utilization in the brain, which means their brains are doing more work. It hasn't been investigated in otherwise healthy people, but this does help us know that it gives our brains a boost.

The Benefits Of Phosphatidylserine

According to Annie Price, Certified Holistic Health Counselor, there are six top benefits to PS. These listed benefits also overlap with the results of multiple scientific studies. 

May Improve Alzheimer’s Symptoms

  • Alzheimers's is a disease that mainly damages memory and cognitive abilities. Taking Phosphatidylserine is not a cure but taking supplements may improve symptoms for some.
  • In a double-blind crossover study, Alzheimer's patients who took 300mg of PS daily for eight weeks saw more significant improvement in overall well-being than those taking the placebo. There were no significant differences in mental function tests, however.
  • Phosphatidylserine appears to be the most effective in those with less severe Alzheimer’s symptoms.
  • A quick note: most clinical studies have used the bovine cortex variation of PS for research. It’s not clear is soy-based PS has the same positive effects on Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Helps Reduce Age-Related Cognitive Decline

  • In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 78 older people with cognitive impairment took soy-based Phosphatidylserine or a placebo for 6 months. Those who took the PS saw a significant increase in memory after the study was complete, while the placebo group remained unchanged.

Combats Depression

  • It's been observed that patients with depression have decreased blood flow to some areas of the brain.
  • It’s also known that having an omega-3 fatty acid deficiency can decrease normal blood flow to the brain. This deficiency also causes a thirty-five percent reduction in Phosphatidylserine levels in the brain. 
  • These are connected. Depressed people are typically low in omega-3s as well as PS, so, logically, PS rich diet or PS supplementation may help improve depression symptoms. 
  • PS also affects neurotransmitters, which relate to mood. Studies have shown that PS supplementation can improve the severity of depression.
  • In addition to this, some studies have also suggested that Phosphatidylserine can improve symptoms of anxiety and stress by blunting the body’s cortisol production. 

Improves Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

  • Parkinson’s is a disease for which no specific cause is known. It has been observed, however, that Parkinson’s patients experience the inability to produce dopamine, which interferes with intentional movement. 
  • Parkinson’s patients often have low levels of Phosphatidylserine. In one study, taking 100mg of the bovine cortex variation PS three times daily improved mood and cognitive function.
  • PS supplementation in Parkinson's patients may help improve the quality of sleep, but more research needs to be done as to the ideal dosage.

Treats ADHD Symptoms

  • Researchers have discovered that Phosphatidylserine affects cortisol regulation, which may be beneficial for those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. 
  • It's been shown that PS helps people with ADHD increase their mental focus, improve their memory and cognition, boost their mood, and relieve stress by lowering cortisol levels.
  • Phosphatidylserine supplementation has also shown to short-term auditory memory. 

Boosts Athletic Performance

  • As we will discuss later in this article, one of the top 6 benefits of Phosphatidylserine supplementation is improved athletic performance because of how it reduces levels of exercise-induced cortisol.

The Concerning Stuff

Annie Price also discusses a few risks and side effects of Phosphatidylserine supplementation. 

These include:

  • Most studies have shown that PS is safe to take for up to six months in appropriate doses. Taking PS supplements for longer than that may have unknown results. 
  • Phosphatidylserine side effects, especially for doses over 300mg, may include insomnia and upset stomach. 
  • Do not take PS supplements if you are taking any blood thinners. Winchester Hospital advises that this includes natural blood thinners like ginkgo biloba, garlic, or vitamin E. 
  • There are no standardized or optimal doses of PS for any condition. 
  • Some clinical trials of PS supplementation have shown minor cognitive function improvement, but better design trials reported no benefit. It is according to ALZ Discovery in this article written in November of 2016. 
  • According to an article on Very Well Mind, which was updated on February 3, 2020, "Although small studies have shown some benefits, there's a lack of high-quality research to support the many claims for [PS]. It may be wise to stick to other methods until more is known."

WebMD explains the following medication interactions of PS:

  • Drying medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants may become less effective when combined with PS supplements. 
  • Phosphatidylserine may increase the side effects of Alzheimer’s medications. 
  • PS may increase the side effects of medications used to treat glaucoma. 

Systems Affected by Phosphatidylserine

The following information is based on a study entitled "The effects of phoshatidylersine on endocrine response to moderate-intensity exercise" by Michael A Starks, Stacy L Stark, Michael Kingsley, Martin Purpura, and Ralf Jager. This research paper was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sport Nutrition in 2008.

Phosphatidylserine is a naturally occurring phospholipid, which means it's a fat-containing phosphate. It's most present in organs that participate in lots of metabolic activity. These include the brain, lungs, heart, liver, and the skeletal and muscular systems.

PS is mainly located within the cell membrane, where it carries out multiple regulatory and structural functions. It controls receptors, ion channels, enzymes, and other signaling molecules, and it is involved in governing the fluidity of the cell membrane.

Phosphatidylserine’s involvement in the activity of receptors and enzymes makes it truly necessary for the functionality of the mind and body, especially where cognition and physical activity are concerned. Human beings create PS on their own, but we get most of it from our food, so supplementation isn’t necessary for the most part. 

Phosphatidylserine and Performance in Sports

Research before this study had indicated that Phosphatidylserine supplementation could potentially reduce cortisol levels during moderate to intense exercise. Other findings seemed to indicate that these results were dose dependent. This study wanted to examine the effect of short-term PS supplementation in doses of 600 milligrams (mg) daily in healthy males.

The results of their research showed that PS is effective when fighting exercise-induced stress and fatigue. It also helps prevent physiological deterioration, which can occur when one over-exerts themselves with physical exercise. Because it keeps cortisol levels from spiking during moderate physical activity, it can be beneficial to athletes.

According to this study and other research which it has cited, Phosphatidylserine has been known to speed up recovery after exercise, prevent muscle soreness, and promote well-being.

Over-exercising and constant over-training can cause decreased physical performance, injury, a weakened immune system, and depression. 

It is absolutely not recommended to consistently over-push yourself, but to athletes who may need some extra help with the norm, Phosphatidylserine supplementation may be something to see your sports nutritionist about. 

Supplementing Your Diet with Phosphatidylserine

While Phosphatidylserine supplements are available, Annie Price, as previously mentioned, also compiled a list of foods which contain PS, measured in milligrams of PS per 100 grams). 

Some of these from her list include:

  • Soy Lecithin: 5,900
  • Cow brain: 713
  • Atlantic mackerel: 480
  • Atlantic herring: 414
  • Tuna: 194
  • Chicken leg with skin, no bone: 134
  • Chicken liver: 123
  • White beans: 107
  • Chicken breast with skin: 85
  • Mullet: 76
  • Beef: 69
  • Turkey leg, no skin or bone: 50
  • Atlantic cod: 28
  • Anchovy: 25
  • Sardine: 16
  • Trout: 14

Phosphatidylserine and Kids

According to a study cited by Nootropics Expert, researchers in Japan conducted a randomized, double-blind trial with a placebo control and 36 children between the ages 4 and 14. 

The study participants had been diagnosed with ADHD but had not received any previous conventional ADHD treatment before the trial.

This study reported that Phosphatidylserine improved ADHD symptoms and short-term memory in the children. 

Another PS study with 200 children researched the effects of PS combined with Omega-3 supplements for 30 weeks. This study found that there was a reduction in the restlessness and impulsivity of the study participants.

Phosphatidylserine and Nootropics

Nootropics are drugs or supplements which may improve cognitive function in healthy individuals. Nootropics are also called smart drugs or cognitive enhancers. Caffeine and L-theanine (found in green tea) are both natural nootropics with which you may be familiar. 

Nootropics Expert suggests using PS as a nootropic supplement. 

Here is a short informational video from Dr. Ford Brewer, a doctor of preventative medicine that gives an unbiased and honest medical opinion on the use of PS supplements. 

Wrapping It Up

In conclusion, multiple studies have shown that Phosphatidylserine may have various cognitive benefits as well as possible benefits for those suffering from ADHD and Alzheimers. These are all, however, somewhat dated and preliminary studies with some inconsistencies in results.

PS may interfere with certain medications used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's as well as similar diseases, so it comes down to a treatment decision for the patient: is your current medication more or less effective than taking Phosphatidylserine supplements?

Overall, everything comes down to proper up-to-date research and knowing both your body and medical conditions well. Always consult your doctor before making any medication changes or taking supplements with your prescriptions.

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