Phosphatidylserine – An Overview
Phosphatidylserine (which we’ll shorten to “PS” for this article) is a naturally occurring phospholipid that permeates your brain.
In fact, it is present in every single one of your cells throughout your entire body. In particular, it is highly concentrated in brain cells.
Its ubiquity in the brain makes it one of the most important factors in many vital functions, including neuroplasticity, nerve growth, brain cell health, and efficient cross-brain communication.
Supplementing with PS has been linked to improvements in:
- Attention span
- Overall cognitive health.
In fact, we consider PS one of THE most important nootropics currently available.
It is involved in so many holistic brain processes that it would be a mistake for any nootropics enthusiast to overlook it.
Don’t take our word for it either. According to a 2015 meta-analysis, 300mg of PS per day “supports human cognitive functions, including the formation of short-term memory, the consolidation of long-term memory, the ability to create new memories, the ability to retrieve memories, the ability to learn and recall information, the ability to focus attention and concentrate, the ability to reason and solve problems, language skills, and ability to communicate.” That’s straight from the researchers, not ad copy!1Glade MJ, Smith K. Phosphatidylserine and the human brain, Nutrition. 2015
PS oversees the critical task of regulating the flow of nutrients and oxygen in and out of each cell.
It’s also involved in building new neurons, facilitating chemical messages across the brain, and maintaining mitochondria (which in turn powers each cell).
It is absolutely necessary for healthy brains, so it should come as no surprise that it has so many positive effects when taken as a supplement.
The unfortunate truth is that humans start to naturally lose PS as they age, starting in their early twenties.
Cell membranes become less permeable, causing attention, memory, and mood to suffer.
Your overall ability to think in general starts to decline. As such, most people should consider PS being part of their core nootropic stack.
PS is naturally occurring in the brain and non-toxic. It is totally safe and has very minimal side-effects.
It can be derived from animal sources, soy, or sunflower, and it is important to check the label of any product you purchase to determine which it is.
What Does Phosphatidylserine Do?
PS has been linked to an almost absurd number of benefits for users.
Because it is such a critical component of brain cells, it effects basically everything to do with cognition.
Numerous clinical studies have linked PS supplementation to the following:
Improves Memory and Recall
PS is probably the most evidenced back nootropic out there when it comes to memory.
There are several studies that have concluded strong improvements in recall, short term memory, and long term memory among subjects that supplemented with PS.2Cenacchi T. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration, Aging (Milano). 1993
It’s important to keep in mind that most of these studies were done with elderly patients who were already suffering from some mental decline, not healthy adults who are looking for a boost.
That said, there is plenty of evidence that the same mechanisms that alleviate age-related issues also help boost memory in other populations.
Memory and recall are largely functions of how quickly brain cells can communicate, and PS improves the speed of chemical signals traveling across the brain in a major way.
Additionally, the neurogenerative properties of PS help your brain forge new connections, which aids in forming and storing new memories. If you are a busy student or professional you may seriously benefit from the memory-related effects of PS.3Crook T, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer’s disease, Psychopharmacol Bull. 1992 4Akito Kato-Kataoka, et al. Soybean-Derived Phosphatidylserine Improves Memory Function of the Elderly Japanese Subjects with Memory Complaints, J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2010
Preventing Cognitive Decline Due To Aging
As you are aware, getting older usually means getting slower mentally. Your brain simply doesn’t work as well. Part of this unfortunate trend is linked to PS levels declining as you age.
Without enough PS, your brain cells become less and less permeable, inhibiting the flow of oxygen, nutrients, and other vital proteins. It also makes your brain less plastic, and less capable of repairing itself or growing new connections.
Luckily, PS can help stop and even reverse those trends by increasing the permeability of cells and allowing greater neurogenesis.
In one study, elderly Alzheimers patients improved on memory and recall tasks after twelve weeks of PS supplementation. In another, patients with age-related degeneration scored significantly better on cognitive tests after taking PS than the control group.5Cenacchi T. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration, Aging (Milano). 1993
The FDA itself has concluded that “consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive dysfunction in the elderly.”
Keep in mind that the FDA generally has a pretty dim view of nootropics, so even this seemingly weak endorsement means that there is strong evidence that PS works.6Crook TH, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment, Neurology. 1991
Boosts Energy Levels
PS has a massive effect on overall energy levels in the brain and body. PS allows quicker more efficient uptake of oxygen and glucose by brain cells. Glucose is the primary source of energy for brain cells, and PS can increase its absorption by about 20%.
This is a pretty substantial number, and it gives the brain more fuel to work with for any cognitive task. This can clear brain fog, and cause users to operate more efficiently on all levels.
Additionally, PS has been shown to increase total body metabolism by almost 15%. After all, PS is not only found in the brain but throughout the body as well.
Many people who use PS have noticed improved energy levels during physical exercise, and some have reported weight loss as well (the lowered cortisol levels associated with PS could also play a role in this effect).
For this reason, we also think that PS could be a great choice for athletes and active types looking for an edge.7Klinkhammer P. · Szelies B. · Heiss W.-D. Effect of Phosphatidylserine on Cerebral Glucose Metabolism in Alzheimer’s Disease, Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 1990
A 2001 study in Wales concluded that PS significantly improved the mood of healthy young students after supplementation for a month. These subjects reported higher levels of well-being, and less anxiety, even after having to complete a difficult math exam.
There’s also a significant amount of anecdotal evidence that PS can make you feel happier.8Benton D, et al. The influence of phosphatidylserine supplementation on mood and heart rate when faced with an acute stressor, Nutr Neurosci. 2001
Lowers Cortisol/Stress Levels
PS blunts the response of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is often known as the “stress hormone”, and it is heavily associated with your body’s fight or flight response. Too much cortisol in the body causes stress, mental anxiety, and overall feelings of unease.
Taking PS can cause cortisol levels to drop, which can be extremely beneficial if you are participating in stressful situations or if you suffer from chronic anxiety.9Parker AG, et al. The effects of IQPLUS Focus on cognitive function, mood and endocrine response before and following acute exercise, J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011
Improve Focus and Treat ADHD
A recent study concluded that PS may be effective in treating ADHD symptoms in school-age children. Children who took PS for two months were significantly more attentive, less impulsive, and had better short-term memory.10Baumeister J, et al. Influence of phosphatidylserine on cognitive performance and cortical activity after induced stress, Nutr Neurosci. 2008
This is an exciting new prospect, as ADHD is a massive issue for children and adults alike, and the standard drugs used to treat it have notorious side-effects.
For this reason, we consider PS a great candidate if you are looking to build an Adderall replacement nootropic stack. PS can also work in conjunction with traditional ADHD meds to complement their effects.
Even if you do not have clinical ADHD, you may still benefit from greater clarity of thought that PS provides.
In addition to its effects on cellular energy and neuroplasticity, PS has also been shown to lower beta waves in the brain. Beta brain waves fluctuate more rapidly than any other brain wave, and too much beta wave activity is linked to higher levels of arousal, which can be detrimental to sustained attention.
In one trial, subjects who took PS for several weeks showed fewer Beta waves in the right-hemispheric frontal brain region. These subjects were “were connected to a more relaxed state compared to the controls,” according to researchers, and scored better on cognitive tasks.11Hirayama S, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014
There have been numerous anecdotal reports of PS improving sleep, possibly due to its effects on cortisol levels and beta waves in the brain.
Some people have even noticed more vivid dreams while taking this nootropic supplement.
There are no clinical trials on PS and sleep at this point, but it is something that frequently comes up in user reports.
How Phosphatidylserine Works In The Brain
We really think that PS is one of the “must-have” supplements every biohacker should have in their stack.
It simply provides such a breadth of positive effects, and it’s so well researched that there is little question to it’s effectiveness.
Everyone requires phosphatidylsterine in their brain to function.
And if you eat a typical Western diet, you are probably not consuming enough PS naturally (unless you just happen to have a fridge full of cows brain and pig liver. If so disregard).
So, pretty much anyone can benefit from consistent phosphatidylsterine supplementation.
A Great Addition To Any Nootropic Stack
If you are already supplementing with other nootropics, or looking to build a stack, PS should be considered a cornerstone of your daily routine.
It pairs well with pretty much any other nootropic out there. Because it speeds up information transfer in the brain, PS should theoretically have a synergistic effect on other nootropics by increasing their efficiency.
More research would be needed to verify this, but we do have a hunch that this might be the case.
In particular, PS is most supported by evidence when it comes to treating age-related cognitive decline.
Whether through natural degeneration or a disease like Alzheimer’s, PS has shown to significantly help slow this process.
Anyone concerned about their long-term cognitive health, or suspects they already might be starting to slip should consider using PS.
Supplementing with PS for a couple of months can functionally turn the clock back about a decade on your cognitive abilities, which is something pretty much anyone could benefit from.
ADHD sufferers could also gain extra benefit from PS. There’s preliminary evidence that it could be used to treat ADHD in children and adults.
If ADHD affects you, PS could work in conjunction with your current treatment or even potentially replace it.
There’s a lot of people out there who are understandably wary of the effects of taking amphetamines long-term, so if there’s a safer treatment out there, it could be worth investigating.
Another specific use of PS is to treat concussions. It’s neurogenerative and neuroprotective properties should also be handy if you’ve suffered any sort of traumatic physical injury.
How Much Phosphatidylserine Should I Take?
Most studies have concluded that around 100mg-300mg per day is the effective dose range. Many pre-made supplement stacks, such as MindLab Pro, include PS in their proprietary blends.
As important as dosing is, you should also consider the source of the phosphatidylsterine when choosing supplements.
PS was derived from bovine cortex until recently, when fear of Mad Cow disease stopped this practice.
Now it is typically made from either soy or sunflower extracts.
Keep this in mind if you have a soy allergy, as all supplements are not created equal. Typically the sunflower derived phosphatidylsterine is considered higher quality.
The Sharp PS brand in particular is considered one of the best types, as it is sourced from non-GMO sunflowers.
If it’s included in the formula of your stack, that’s a good sign.
Phosphatidylserine Potential Side Effects
There are few reported side effects associated with phosphatidylsterine, and it is usually very well tolerated.
It’s already extremely pervasive in your body, so it’s not going to cause serious problems as a foreign substance.
Anecdotally, there are a handful of reports on online message boards of people experiencing lethargy/anhedonia after supplementing with PS.
This may be due to its effect on cortisol levels. If cortisol levels drop too much, it can result in a lack of motivation in some people.
There may be interactions between PS and some Alzheimer’s medication, potentially increasing a patient’s acetylcholine levels too high.
You should always check with a physician before taking PS if you are also being treated for Alzheimer’s.
Everyone is different, and will react in different ways to supplements. Always check in with your body when taking a new supplement or nootropic.
Do you have questions about, supplementing with Phosphatidylserine? Do you have experience supplementing with Phosphatidylserine? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.