Phosphatidylserine: Why We Don't Recommend it


Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a type of fat naturally produced by the body and consumed in small amounts in foods. Your body makes all the PS it needs from other types of fats. It is an integral part of cell membranes as well as mitochondrial membranes.


What are the claimed benefits?

  • Promotes healthy brain function

  • Supports memory and focus

  • Reduces age related memory loss

  • Reduces cortisol and stress


What the science says

Mostly false.


Some research suggests supplementation with PS leads to increased PS in the liver and brain. However, taking PS orally does not directly result in an increase in PS in all cells as it is broken down during digestion and re-assembled differently in the bloodstream and cells. The body then determines where these fats most need to go, which may not be your brain. Possible benefits are noted for age-related cognitive decline and in those with Alzheimer’s Disease, although evidence is still mixed.


The most promising evidence was in research with bovine (cow) brain derived PS, however, these products are no longer available due to associated viral risks (i.e. mad cow disease). Plant PS products derived from soy, cabbage and other plants have not shown the same efficacy.


Research on cortisol blunting with PS has been in very small studies and often in athletes who are over-training or in persons in a one-time stress stimulus (physical or psychological). Results are mixed and inconclusive at best. For most people, in ongoing moderate instances you need cortisol, just as you need some acute inflammation for proper biochemical signaling for your body to properly repair and recover.


The Apeiron Life perspective

The fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is in high concentrations in neurons of healthy brains and promotes PS accumulation in neuronal cell membranes. This may be in part why some evidence suggests phosphatidylserine is a supportive supplement for those with Alzheimer’s Disease. Stronger evidence exists for consuming foods high in omega-3 fats (including DHA), or supplementing with quality omega-3’s when necessary, which is the approach we recommend.


There is insufficient or unreliable evidence to support PS supplementation to improve athletic performance enhancement, exercise-induced muscle soreness, depression or ADHD, and stress or cortisol response and we do not recommend it for these uses. Chronic overtraining and excess stress have additional long-term health harms that are better addressed by a multitude of lifestyle adjustments that a PS supplement simply cannot address.


Will a supplement benefit you?

Likely not. Focus on omega-3 rich foods for brain healthy fats instead. Increasing omega-3s may in turn support increased phosphatidylserine in brain cells. Additionally, take note of your physical and psychological stressors and how they are impacting your health and well-being.


Still curious to try it? If you do, here’s what to keep an eye on:

While not likely effective in most indications, 100 mg 2-3x/day of phosphatidylserine is generally recognized as safe and not likely to cause harm unless you are at increased risk for bleeding as phosphatidylserine can act as a blood thinner. Consult your doctor if you are also taking warfarin, vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, omega-3s or other blood thinning supplements or medications as this can further increase your risk for bleeding.


Additionally, some people experience gas, upset stomach and trouble sleeping. If you experience these symptoms, discontinue use and contact your doctor.


References

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