Phosphatidylserine (PS) is essential for cognitive function and is synthesized by the body. Supplementation of it provides added benefits to the user. It is similar to a dietary fat, and the highest amounts it can be found naturally are in fish.
PS is a phospholipid that every species needs, mostly in the brain which accounts for half of the total amount in the human body.
There have been three main sources of supplemental PS: bovine, soy lecithin and sunflower oil. Bovine sourced PS is no longer used, sold or added to supplements and so soy lecithin and sunflower oil derived versions are the only kind to be included. There is no health risk associated with these two at all, save for any soy related allergies people may have, in which case the sunflower oil derivative is the one to go for.
Phosphatidylserine can reduce stress and improve cognitive function and attention in both adults and children. It is a potential treatment for people suffering with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression.
Memory formation has been shown to be improved by supplementation, as has learning ability.
Some studies have shown that PS can improve exercise performance.
How Does Phosphatidylserine Work?
PS is structured like a triglyceride (chain of 3 fatty acids), but the 2nd and 3rd are replaced by a phosphatidic acid and a serine amino acid. This is a phospholipid structure.
By increasing cell fluidity – when it is part of the cell membrane – and interacting with sodium potassium ATPase (enzyme), while reducing (downregulating) acetylcholinesterase, it exerts its benefits on cognitive function. The last enzyme there, acetylcholinesterase, is that which breaks down one of our principal neurotransmitters, acetylcholine. By inhibiting the enzyme that breaks it down, the neurotransmitters can do their work for longer.
Studies involving children taking PS has shown that symptoms of ADHD can be reduced, and also that general cognitive function and attention are both improved. Studies in adults confirms that attention and cognitive function are improved. Some research even shows that when the two fatty acids derived from fish oil – EPA and DHA – are used as the PS backbone then the effects on attention are even greater.
Cortisol levels, and therefore stress levels, have been reduced with PS supplementation, as well as stress levels which are independent of the cortisol (and heart rate) indicators. It appears that prolonged supplementation provides the anti-stress rather than brief cycles.
PS is synergistic with Ginkgo Biloba, a herbal cognitive enhancer.
Are There Other Benefits?
The main potential benefit aside from the cognitive related one is the enhancement of physical performance. This has been shown with tests involving cyclists.
Where Does Phosphatidylserine Come From?
Phosphatidylserine is synthesized naturally in every species. At least half of the PS in humans is located in the brain. The supplemental form can be derived from Soy lecithin or sunflower oil. Bovine sources have been used in the past but are no longer due to potential health concerns.
Soy and Sunflower derived Phosphatidylserine are very clean and effective additions to a nootropic supplement, but especially for people who don’t get much fish in their diet.
As nootropic ingredients go, it is not the most potent, considering we synthesize a lot of it in our brains anyway. Taking some as part of a blend will top up our existing supply or just add to it, thereby increasing the benefits a little more. Certainly, the evidence is there to suggest that supplementation is effective.
As always, when PS is part of a full nootropic product, it is a solid platform and will be synergistic with many of the herbal inclusions that can be found.