Sep 03


PhosphatidylserinePhosphatidylserine may help protect the body against stress and may improve memory and prevent Alzheimer’s dementia. For the last month I have been examining some of the literature on this topic and working with some people in my practice to see if phosphatidylserine seems to be a useful natural supplement.

The research literature on phosphatidylserine is intriguing.

But first a little background.

Phosphatidylserine is one of the key components of the cell membrane (the lipid (or fat) layer that defines the outside of the cell).

It is found in the diet in many foods, particularly in soybeans and fish. And, it is also made in the body from other fatty acids.

Phosphatidylserine was initially produced from the brains of cows, but then it was found that this allowed the transmission of mad cow disease, and now the supplements that are readily available are all from plant sources, primarily from soybeans and cabbage.

Unfortunately, the studies that found that phosphatidylserine was helpful as a supplement were all done using animal sources, and, although there is reason to believe that plant sourced phosphatidylserine should be as effective, the fact is that the studies done more recently, using the plant based supplement have often failed to replicate the initial positive studies.

Evidence from numerous double-blind studies supports the effectiveness of phosphatidylserine as an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of age-related mental decline.

In fact, In May, 2003 the Food and Drug Administration gave “qualified health claim” status to phosphatidylserine which allowed the labels of the supplement to state that “consumption of phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive dysfunction in the elderly” along with the disclaimer “very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim.”

Recently, phosphatidylserine has become popular among athletes who hope it can help them build muscle more efficiently. This use is based on weak evidence that the supplement slows the release of cortisol following heavy exercise (cortisol is the stress hormone and may play a role in the breakdown of muscle after heavy exercise). The significance of this preliminary finding is not clear.

Plant sourced phosphatidylserine is safe, but it is not clear how effective it is. As with many supplements, the effects are subtle enough that individuals using the supplement are unlikely to notice clear changes, at least that is the experience of those who have tried it.

For those who want to try it, the usual dose recommended is 100 mg three times a day.


Amaducci L. Phosphatidylserine in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: Results of a multicenter study. Psychopharmacol Bull. 1988;24:130-134.
Crook TH, Tinklenberg J, Yesavage J, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology. 1991 ;41 :644-649.
Crook T, Petrie W, Wells C, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacol Bull. 1992;28:61-66.
Delwaide PJ, Gyselynck-Mambourg AM, Hurlet A, et al. Double-blind randomized controlled study of phosphatidylserine in senile demented patients. Acta Neurol Scand. 1986;73:136-140.
Engel RR, Satzger W, Gunther W, et al. Double-blind cross-over study of phosphatidylserine vs. placebo in patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer type. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1992;2:149-155.
Funfgeld EW, Baggen M, Nedwidek P, et al. Double-blind study with phosphatidylserine (PS) in Parkinsonian patients with senile dementia of Alzheimer’s type (SDAT). Prog Clin Biol Res. 1989;317:1235-1246.
Nerozzi D, Aceti F, Melia E, et al. Phosphatidylserine and memory disorders in the aged [in Italian; English abstract]. Clin Ther. 1987; 120:399-404.
Palmieri G, Palmieri R, lnzoli MR, et al. Double-blind controlled trial of phosphatidylserine in patients with senile mental deterioration. Clin Trials J. 1987;24:73-83.
Villardita C, Grioli S, Salmeri G, et al. Multicentre clinical trial of brain phosphatidylserine in elderly patients with intellectual deterioration. Clin Trials J. 1987;24:84-93.
Cenacchi T, Bertoldin T, Farina C, et al. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration. Aging(Milano). 1993;5: 123-133.
Crook TH, Tinklenberg J, Yesavage J, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology. 1991 ;41 :644-649.

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