Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid that helps in transmitting messages between the nerve cells in our brains. It plays a key role in maintaining memory sharpness, covers and protects our brain cells, and aids in our blood’s clotting abilities. It is often found on the membranes of a variety of organelles throughout the cell, particularly in the plasma membrane. Phosphatidylserine also supports other functions in our body. Serinaid is the most common phosphatidylserine brand available in the market.
While our body can produce phosphatidylserine, most of it we get from food and dietary supplements. Phosphatidylserine supplements are originally made from cow or cattle brain; however, nowadays, they are more often made from cabbage or soy.
What good can Phosphatidylserine do?
Phosphatidylserine is commonly used to help with the following conditions:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Alzheimer’s disease and other normal age-related declines in cognitive skills
- Multiple sclerosis
Cow brain-made phosphatidylserine supplements often are recommended to help aid memory, thinking, and concentration skills that decline with age. These supplements are said to help improve attention, language skills, and other brain functions in elderly or aging people.
Likewise, cow brain-made phosphatidylserine supplements are also recommended for people with Alzheimer’s disease. It is said to help improve the symptoms after 6–12 weeks of treatment. However, due to the disease’s nature, it is said that it may become less effective over time. (Side note: It is unclear if the cabbage- or soy-made ones also have the same effects, as scientific studies are still quite limited.)
In a 2015 study published in Mental Illness, people aged 65 and older who are suffering from major depression were given a supplement containing a combination of phosphatidylserine and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. After taking the supplement three times daily for 12 weeks, researchers noticed an improvement based on a depression scale.
Additionally, phosphatidylserine combined with omega-3 fatty acids is also said to be beneficial in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in children. In a 2012 study published in European Psychiatry, 200 children with ADHD were assigned to 15 weeks of treatment. The children were either given a placebo or a phosphatidylserine-with-omega-3-fatty-acids supplement. The researchers found out that the children who were given the supplement experienced a “significantly greater reduction in hyperactive/impulsive behavior and a greater improvement in mood” than those who were treated with the placebo.
Apart from mental-related concerns, Phosphatidylserine supplements are also said to help in increasing exercise capacity and improving athletic performance. Researchers said that phosphatidylserine can help reduce muscle soreness and protect against an increase in levels of the stress hormone "cortisol" (which often occurs as a result of overtraining). Phosphatidylserine is also said to possibly improve blood lipid profile and decrease cardiovascular risks.
While these effects sound good, it is important to note that there are still quite a limited number of studies on phosphatidylserine. It is best to consult a physician first before taking a supplement.
Are there any side effects in taking phosphatidylserine?
Additionally, there are some concerns that products made from animal sources may also transmit animal diseases to humans (which resulted in the formulation of a vegetarian version of the supplement). In the case of cow brain-made phosphatidylserine supplements, it may transmit mad cow disease.
Additionally, phosphatidylserine is also said to possibly have a blood-thinning effect. If you are someone who is taking blood-thinning medications, anti-inflammatory medications, or have blood-clotting problems, consult your doctor first before trying out a supplement.
Lastly, phosphatidylserine supplements may also have side effects when taken with medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and glaucoma, as well as with antihistamines and antidepressants.
A more natural way of improving memory
As mentioned, there are quite limited studies made on taking phosphatidylserine supplements, and the effects of soy- or vegetable-made phosphatidylserine supplements may differ from the original cow brain-made supplements. If you’re looking for a more natural and safer way to improve your cognition, you can try adding exercise and mental activities.
Apart from exercise’s benefits to our physique, exercises are also said to help increase the size of areas of our brain (like the hippocampus) that are important for our memory. Additionally, mindfulness meditation has also been said to show positive effects on these parts of our brains.
Some exercises you can do are:
- Self-guided meditation. Meditation can be done in different ways. You can always find a technique that would be best for you.
- Test your recall. Playing memory games, and memorizing your grocery list, are just some activities that you can do to test your recall.
- Indulge in music. Examples are playing an instrument, singing in a choir, or taking lessons (resources are available online!)
- Do math. Math may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but solving math problems are said to have positive effects on cognition.
- Take a cooking class. Cooking uses a number of our senses, which means it also involves different parts of our brains. At the same time, when we taste or eat food, we can also exercise our brains by trying to identify the flavors present in the food.
- Learn a new language. Listening and hearing help stimulate our brains. Also, some people associate being bilingual with a lower risk of developing dementia.
- Learn a new sport. We have established that doing physical exercises has benefits for our physical body and brain. Sports can be a fun alternative for workouts. (TIP: Swimming is said to have brain-boosting effects.)
- Play Sudoku or chess. Number puzzles like Sudoku are said to improve cognitive function in some people; while chess has been said to help improve memory skills, executive functioning (ability to monitor and adapt behavior), and information processions speed.
- Sleep. Like physical exercise, sleep has benefits for both our body and brain. If you can, try getting 8 hours of sleep each night.