Phosphatidylserine is found in high amounts in the brain. It’s a popular dietary supplement used to improve mental focus, memory, and mood. Does it really work? Read on to learn more about the health benefits of phosphatidylserine, potential side effects, and optimal dosage.
What is Phosphatidylserine?
Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid (a fat molecule attached to a phosphate) and is a major component of all cell membranes. It has particular importance in brain function; people use it as a supplement to improve cognitive function and memory, relieve stress, and more .
Phosphatidylserine Health Benefits
1) Cognitive Function
A supplement containing 400 mg phosphatidylserine (PS) increased the speed of mathematical calculations and decreased errors in a clinical trial of 18 young people .
It also improved cognitive impairment in three clinical trials of 577 elderly people (at a dosage of 300 mg/day) [3, 4, 5].
Supplementation with 200-300 mg/day of PS improved memory in three clinical trials with 263 participants (36 children with ADHD and 227 older adults) [6, 7, 8].
In another clinical trial of 72 people, 300 mg/day of phosphatidylserine with phosphatidic acid improved memory and mood .
PS combined with omega-3 fatty acids or Ginkgo biloba extract helped maintain or improve memory in three clinical trials of 158 people [10, 11, 12].
However, phosphatidylserine, alone or with fish oil, did not improve age-associated memory impairment in two trials of 206 older patients [13, 14].
2) Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the accumulation of amyloid beta in the brain. Studies have shown that phosphatidylserine (PS) prevents this accumulation, which could help prevent or slow the progression of the disease .
In a clinical trial of 51 people with Alzheimer’s, PS reduced the symptoms and enhanced cognition, with greater results in those with milder impairment .
It improved some dementia symptoms in two more studies with 104 Alzheimer’s patients in the early stages of the disease. Its beneficial effects might fade out with time [17, 18].
300 mg/day also improved dementia symptoms and behavior in a clinical trial of 42 senile patients .
Larger, well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm the promising beneficial effects of phosphatidylserine on Alzheimer’s disease.
Phosphatidylserine, alone or in combination with omega-3 fatty acids, reduced ADHD symptoms in two clinical trials of 236 children [6, 20].
According to the authors of one study, it may be particularly effective in “hyperactive-impulsive, emotionally and behaviorally-dysregulated ADHD children” .
The initial results are promising but require further investigation.
Phosphatidylserine reduced cortisol and ACTH (which controls cortisol release) levels following a stress test in a clinical trial with 80 people. Strangely, this effect was only seen with the 400 mg dose and not higher dosages .
PS (400 mg), in combination with phosphatidic acid (400 mg) or omega-3, normalized ACTH and cortisol levels but only in chronically stressed people in two clinical trials of 135 men [22, 23].
Phosphatidylserine (300 mg/day) improved mood and calmness in young volunteers facing stressful situations .
No valid clinical evidence supports the use of phosphatidylserine for any of the conditions in this section. Below is a summary of up-to-date animal studies, cell-based research, or low-quality clinical trials which should spark further investigation. However, you shouldn’t interpret them as supportive of any health benefit.
5) Athletic Performance
In a clinical trial of 14 men, 750 mg of phosphatidylserine increased exercise duration. In another study, 400 mg/day reduced feelings of fatigue post-exercise, but the effects may partly be attributed to caffeine, a known stimulant [25, 26].
In response to physical exertion, PS decreases secretion of ACTH, a hormone that triggers cortisol. This effect on the stress response may explain how phosphatidylserine may benefit athletic performance [21, 24, 27, 28].
However, in a small clinical trial of 8 men, it did not protect against muscle soreness and damage .
A supplement containing phosphatidylserine, omega-3 fatty acids, Ginkgo biloba, and B vitamins taken for 6 months improved mobility in 27 older women. Other supplement ingredients have likely contributed to the results .
300 mg/day of phosphatidylserine helped reduce depressive symptoms in a small clinical trial of 10 older women .
Animal and Cellular Research (Lacking Evidence)
No clinical evidence supports the use of phosphatidylserine for any of the conditions listed in this section. Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.
In Parkinson’s disease, phosphatidylserine levels are depleted in brain cells, which can cause disturbed sleep. In an animal model of Parkinson’s, phosphatidylserine supplementation restored normal sleep patterns .
Phosphatidylserine aids in the formation of bones from minerals in the body, and researchers have suggested its potential applications for bone repair and recovery from surgery. However, these observations stem from preclinical research only and haven’t been confirmed in humans .
Phosphatidylserine Side Effects & Safety
This list does not cover all possible side effects. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you notice any other side effects. In the US, you may report side effects to the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or at www.fda.gov/medwatch. In Canada, you may report side effects to Health Canada at 1-866-234-2345.
A dosage of 600 mg/day for 12 weeks was safe and well-tolerated in a clinical trial with 120 adults and a dosage of 150 mg/day for 30 weeks was safe and tolerated well in a clinical trial with 200 children. Possible side effects are rare and include [34, 35]:
Historically, phosphatidylserine has been sourced from cow brain tissue, which carries a risk of contamination and disease transmission. It is now usually sourced from soy extracts, which is not associated with the same risks [36, 37].
Phosphatidylserine can be difficult to obtain via the diet. Many foods and natural substances do not contain large amounts of phosphatidylserine. While animal brains are a good source of phosphatidylserine, their consumption is not recommended due to the risk of contracting infectious brain diseases [1, 38, 39].
Dosage & Supplements
PS supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use. In general, regulatory bodies aren’t assuring the quality, safety, and efficacy of supplements. Speak with your doctor before supplementing. The below doses may not apply to you personally. If your doctor suggests using a grape seed extract supplement, work with them to find the optimal dosage according to your health condition and other factors.
The recommended daily dose has not been established but generally, a dosage of 200-400 mg/day was used in clinical trials.
Supplements are available as capsules, softgels, tablets, and powder. They can be made using animal and vegetarian sources. Because of the risk of infectious diseases, vegetable-derived sources of phosphatidylserine (such as soybean) are generally considered better .