Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a rising health ingredient in recent years, known for its ability to enhance memory and improve focus, earning it the nickname “brain phospholipid.” In brain development-focused health products such as cognitive support for the elderly or supplements for children, the promotion of products containing phosphatidylserine is prevalent. But does this component truly benefit the brain? And how should it be taken? Below, we provide an introduction to phosphatidylserine.
What is Phosphatidylserine?
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a type of membrane phospholipid that is commonly present in cell membranes.
In general, the most abundant phospholipid in the cell membranes of eukaryotic cells is phosphatidylcholine (PC), accounting for about 45-55% of total phospholipid content.
Other phospholipids include phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), accounting for about 15-25% of total phospholipid content, phosphatidylinositol (PI) accounting for about 10-15%, sphingomyelin (SM) accounting for about 5-10%, and phosphatidylserine (PS) accounting for about 2-10% of total phospholipid content.
Different tissues and cell types in our body have varying compositions of phospholipids. For example, compared to the liver and other tissue cells, brain cells are rich in phosphatidylserine (PS). Phosphatidylserine contains approximately 40% DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in its composition.
Physiological Functions of Phosphatidylserine:
Phosphatidylserine plays a crucial role in the normal development and maintenance of the nervous system. In cell membranes, membrane phospholipids are typically distributed asymmetrically on the membrane bilayer, regulating the passage of substances in and out of the cell membrane.
Phosphatidylserine is usually found on the inner side of the cell membrane and serves various unique functions in regulating mobility and maintaining structure. It regulates the activity of receptors, enzymes, ion channels, and signaling molecules, participating in controlling membrane fluidity. It is involved in processes such as apoptosis and the initiation of blood clotting. It primarily supports cellular functions, maintains the integrity of mitochondrial membranes, and facilitates energy production.
Because phosphatidylserine plays a significant role in brain signaling, research suggests that the intake of phosphatidylserine can be effectively absorbed by the human body and can cross the blood-brain barrier safely. It is believed to help slow down, halt, or even reverse biochemical changes and structural degradation in nerve cells.
5 Major Benefits of Phosphatidylserine
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is known to have several beneficial effects on human cognitive function, including the formation of short-term memory, consolidation of long-term memory, creation of new memories, retrieval of memories, learning and recalling information, concentration and focus, reasoning and problem-solving, language skills, and communication abilities.
1. Improvement in Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Phosphatidylserine has been found to enhance memory, with its main effect attributed to an increase in delayed verbal recall, a memory ability that tends to weaken in the early stages of dementia. Additionally, the intake of phosphatidylserine has been observed to have no adverse effects.
In a clinical study, elderly individuals with mild cognitive impairment (ages 50-69) were given phosphatidylserine supplementation (300 mg/day) for six months, resulting in significant memory improvement.
Phosphatidylserine may contribute to the improvement of Alzheimer’s disease by protecting cells from oxidative stress, further enhancing learning and memory capabilities. Animal studies have shown that phosphatidylserine supplementation in mice with Alzheimer’s disease improved their learning and memory abilities, reduced inflammation and neuronal cell death in the hippocampus, and promoted neuronal cell proliferation.
2. Enhancement of Focus (Including ADHD)
Phosphatidylserine is believed to have a positive impact on nerve transmission function, which can be beneficial for symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Clinical research has shown that supplementing children with phosphatidylserine significantly improved symptoms of ADHD, including short-term auditory memory and concentration.
Phosphatidylserine is considered a safe therapeutic option to help improve psychological states in children with ADHD. It might also have more pronounced benefits for hyperactive/impulsive behaviors and emotional and behavioral dysregulation.
3. Reduction of Inflammation
Phosphatidylserine is known to help reduce inflammatory responses, although its mechanism is not fully understood. Studies have confirmed that phosphatidylserine not only has anti-inflammatory effects but can also help improve conditions such as arthritis.
Research suggests that phosphatidylserine regulates immune cells in the body, thus improving inflammation and cancer progression. Phosphatidylserine’s involvement in cancer progression research is a complex area, which is being explored for potential new cancer treatment approaches.
4. Improvement of Fatigue
Numerous studies have found that phosphatidylserine can help alleviate bodily fatigue and potentially enhance physical performance and athletic abilities, especially rapid response capabilities. A clinical study showed that subjects who supplemented with phosphatidylserine experienced reduced fatigue after exercise and improved stress mood state after acute training.
Moreover, other studies have discovered that supplementing with phosphatidylserine not only improves exercise performance but also enhances post-training feelings of happiness and subjective muscle soreness.
5. Enhancement of Mood
Phosphatidylserine may aid in reducing the release of cortisol (a stress hormone) to help improve mood. Research has indicated that supplementation with phosphatidylserine leads to a perceived reduction in stress and improved mood. Other studies have suggested that phosphatidylserine can help alleviate depression in the elderly and regulate mood.
Which Foods Contain Phosphatidylserine?
While soy and soybean products can extract phospholipids, the proportion of “phosphatidylcholine” is often higher than that of phosphatidylserine. When purchasing related products, it is important to check whether the product is purified PS rather than just preliminary soy lecithin extract.
Who Should Consider Phosphatidylserine Supplementation
- Individuals who want to prevent brain degeneration and memory decline.
- Individuals looking to enhance focus and learning abilities.
- Those seeking to improve exercise performance.
- People interested in anti-inflammatory, cancer-preventive health.
- Individuals looking to improve mood.
Phosphatidylserine Side Effects
According to studies by the US FDA, long-term supplementation of phosphatidylserine is considered safe, regardless of whether it comes from beef, soy, or fish oil. Only a small number of individuals experienced gastrointestinal discomfort, such as nausea and indigestion.
How to Take Phosphatidylserine
Phosphatidylserine is a fat-soluble nutrient, and its absorption in the intestines is improved when consumed with a meal containing fats. Therefore, it is recommended to take phosphatidylserine after a meal.
5 Brain-Boosting Ingredients Besides Phosphatidylserine
Current research suggests that spearmint might positively affect working memory (a form of short-term memory that temporarily holds information) and improve cognitive abilities. A clinical study found that participants who consumed spearmint showed significant improvements in the quality of working memory and spatial working memory accuracy.
Studies on the relationship between gut microbiota and the brain indicate that supplementing with probiotics can reduce inflammation and oxidative reactions in the body. Additionally, probiotics can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor and neuronal plasticity, helping to counteract harmful brain effects due to aging.
3. Ginkgo Biloba
Many studies have indicated that Ginkgo biloba leaves can help improve symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, dementia, and memory decline. Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, there is significant scientific support for using Ginkgo biloba leaf extract to treat brain-related disorders.
4. Folate (Folic Acid)
Research has revealed a strong correlation between depression and cognitive decline with folate deficiency. Animal studies have shown that supplementing elderly mice with folate improves memory and cellular protection significantly. Folate is believed to protect neuronal integrity by reducing oxidative reactions, thereby helping to improve memory decline associated with aging.
Patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease often have lower concentrations of B-vitamins in their bodies. Studies have confirmed that supplementing with B-vitamins can help improve memory, slow cognitive decline, and mitigate the progression of brain atrophy.