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Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine has been found to improve memory and cognitive function in older individuals.  Many people find that once they pass a certain age, they start forgetting little things more often than before.  Things like where they put the car keys.  Everyone forgets things from time to time, so psychologists have identified specific criteria that need to be met in order to classify the symptoms as age associated memory impairment (AAMI). Many neural processes are involved in memory and there has been much research done to determine if there are ways to support healthy memory processes.  Exercise has been found to be helpful, and several nutritional supplements, including phosphatidylserine, have been identified which may be helpful in supporting memory function.   

What is phosphatidylserine? Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that is part of the cell membrane in animal and plant cells.  It is a component in the normal structure of the cell membranes of most cells including brain cells. Phospholipids are similar in structure to triglycerides except that they contain an added phosphorus compound.  Other phospholipids play a role in cell structure, but in the human brain, phosphatidylserine is the most abundant phospholipid.

The cell membrane of a nerve cell is inherently involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and also cell signaling via neurotransmitters. Any loss of cell membrane integrity in a nerve cell will adversely affect nerve transmission.  There is an age related deterioration of the structure of some nerve synapses in the brain and supplemental phosphatidylserine may help prevent this deterioration. 

Does phosphatidylserine improve memory? Several clinical studies found that supplemental phosphatidylserine improved memory and cognitive functions in adults with age-associated memory impairment (AAMI), and also in the more severe condition, Alzheimer's disease.  Based on these and other studies the FDA has allowed a limited health claim to be made for phosphatidylserine. This allows manufacturers of phosphatidylserine supplements to print the health claim right on the label or packaging of the product.  Very few supplements have had a limited health claim approved by the FDA.

Supplement manufacturers are allowed to label their product with the statement, "Consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly."   As long as they also include the limiting statement, "Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim."

The FDA allows the health claim but requires the limiting statement in order to indicate that the supporting research is limited and preliminary at this time.  This is probably because the total number of human studies conducted is rather small, and not all studies have found a benefit.  Earlier studies were conducted with phosphatidylserine extracted from cow brain.  Phosphatidylserine products available today are derived from soybeans.  This is in response to concern about the possible transmission of mad cow disease by products derived from cattle.  Switching to a plant source of phosphatidylserine is a rational choice but soybean derived phosphatidylserine is not chemically identical to the bovine derived product.  Because of this, additional studies will have to be done with soybean-derived phosphatidylserine to show that it has similar benefits.

The estimated daily intake of phosphatidylserine from food sources for the average person is 80mg per day.  Many of the studies using phosphatidylserine for age related memory impairment used a dose of 300 mg per day.  Considering the extent to which phosphatidylserine participates in the structural integrity of cell membranes of brain cells, there is a strong theoretical basis for supplementing with phosphatidylserine to support healthy memory function.

References:
Crook TH, Tinklenberg J, Yesavage J, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology 1991;41:644-9.

Jorissen BL, Brouns F, et al. Safety of soy-derived phosphatidylserine in elderly people. Nutr Neurosci. 2002 Oct;5(5):337-43.

 

Phosphatidylserine is available at most health food stores.  The well known Nature's Way brand contains 500 mg of phosphatidylserine complex which is standardized to contain 100mg of phosphatidylserine per softgel capsule.


 

Note that statements on this website are provided for information purposes only and have not been evaluated by the FDA.  Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.