What Is Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine supplements may have some benefits for brain health

What Is Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine is a phospholipid, a fatty substance produced in the body that helps transmit messages between nerve cells in the brain. It covers and protects brain cells, aids blood clotting, and may play a key role in retaining memory sharpness.

Phosphatidylserine exists naturally in certain foods and is sold as a dietary supplement. Studies in animals suggest that levels decline with age, and supplements may counteract this. Likewise, they may help with conditions such as:

In addition, phosphatidylserine supplements are purported to promote healthy sleep, improve mood, and enhance exercise performance.

This article discusses phosphatidylserine benefits, dosage, and possible side effects.

side effects of phosphatidylserine
Verywell / Gary Ferster

Health Benefits of Phosphatidylserine

A handful of studies have explored the health effects of phosphatidylserine supplements. However, most of the studies are small and dated.

May Boost Athletic Performance

Phosphatidylserine supplements may help increase exercise capacity and improve athletic performance. Researchers also found that phosphatidylserine may help decrease muscle soreness and protect against an increase in levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that often occurs as a result of overtraining.

May Improve Memory Loss

Phosphatidylserine is often taken to try to slow age-related memory loss. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 78 older people with mild cognitive impairment were assigned to six months of treatment with phosphatidylserine supplements or a placebo.

In tests performed at the end of the six-month period, participants who took phosphatidylserine were found to have experienced a significant improvement in memory.

May Ease Depression

Phosphatidylserine is thought to play a role in helping to regulate mood. In a 2015 study published in Mental Illness, for instance, people over the age of 65 with major depression took a supplement containing phosphatidylserine and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA three times daily for 12 weeks. At the study's end, scores on a depression scale had improved.

More research is needed from large-scale, well-designed clinical studies before phosphatidylserine (or DHA) can be recommended for depression. This Mental Illness study, for example, cannot conclude whether phosphatidylserine, DHA, EPA, or the combination of supplements provides benefits.

May Treat ADHD Symptoms

Using phosphatidylserine in combination with omega-3 fatty acids may aid in the treatment of ADHD symptoms in children, suggests a 2012 study published in European Psychiatry. For the study, 200 children with ADHD were assigned to 15 weeks of treatment with either a placebo or a supplement containing phosphatidylserine and omega-3 fatty acids.

Study results revealed that participants treated with the combination of phosphatidylserine and omega-3 fatty acids experienced a significantly greater reduction in hyperactive/impulsive behavior and a greater improvement in mood compared to those given the placebo.

Another study published in 2014 compared phosphatidylserine to placebo in children who had been diagnosed with ADHD. After two months, the treatment group showed significant improvement in auditory memory, inattention, and impulsivity. This was a small study involving only 36 children. More and larger studies need to be performed to further assess safety and efficacy.

May Lower Cortisol Levels

Some studies have shown that phosphatidylserine supplementation reduces the body's levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone that the body produces in response to stress. Cortisol also plays a major role in regulating many of the body's functions. High levels are associated with adverse health effects such as increased blood glucose and blood pressure, so keeping cortisol levels in check is beneficial.

Recap

Although research is limited, some evidence hints that phosphatidylserine may help improve exercise capacity, alleviate muscle soreness, protect memory, regulate mood, and improve symptoms of ADHD. However, further research is needed to explore these possible benefits.

Warnings and Contraindications of Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine may have a blood-thinning effect. If you take blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin (warfarin), take anti-inflammatory medication, or have blood-clotting problems, speak with your doctor before taking phosphatidylserine. Do not take it within two weeks of scheduled surgery.

Phosphatidylserine supplements may also interact with medications used to treat glaucoma, Alzheimer's disease, antihistamines, and antidepressants. Because additional potential interactions with many medications have not been tested, iask your doctor before using phosphatidylserine.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what's specified on the product label.

The safety of supplements in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

Recap

Possible Side Effects of Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine can have side effects you should be aware of before you take this supplement. You may experience intestinal gas, stomach upset, or insomnia. It may also interact with other medications.

Always discuss the medications you are taking and other health concerns you may have with a healthcare provider before you begin taking phosphatidylserine.

Phosphatidylserine Dosage and Preparation

A 2015 review article noted that 300 milligrams to 800 milligrams a day of phosphatidylserine are absorbed efficiently in humans, and according to the Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database, the therapeutic dose for memory loss is 100 milligrams taken two or three times per day. If you're thinking of taking a supplement containing phosphatidylserine, talk to a healthcare provider about what dosage might be most appropriate for you.

You can boost your intake of phosphatidylserine through food—it's available in a number of foods, including soy (which is the main source), white beans, egg yolks, chicken liver, and beef liver.

Unfortunately, it's difficult for your body to absorb sufficient amounts of phosphatidylserine from dietary sources.

What to Look For

Most of the phosphatidylserine used in studies was derived from the brain cells of cows. Because of safety concerns about mad cow disease, most supplements are now produced from soy or cabbage.

Preliminary studies have shown that plant-based phosphatidylserine supplements may also offer benefits (for instance, the 2010 study on memory used soy-based phosphatidylserine), but more research is needed. However, phosphatidylserine doesn't seem to be a current focus of research, suggesting its limited effect.

A Word From Verywell

Although small studies have shown some benefits, there's a lack of high-quality human research to support the many claims for phosphatidylserine. It may be wise to stick with other methods until more is known.

To maintain your memory and brain functioning, try adding exercise and mental activity. Research suggests that physical activity can increase the size of areas of the brain (like the hippocampus) that are important for memory. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to affect these areas.

If you're still thinking of trying phosphatidylserine, be sure to consult your primary care provider first. Avoid self-treating any medical condition and avoiding or delaying standard care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What foods contain phosphatidylserine?

    Phosphatidlylserine can be found in organ meats, soy beans, and white beans. Some other foods, such as eggs and dairy products, contain negligible amounts of phosphatidylserine. 

  • Does Neuriva have side effects?

    Neuriva is a brain health supplement that contains phosphatidylserine along with other ingredients including folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and coffee fruit extract. Side effects may include stomach upset, sleepiness, or sleep difficulties.

  • Who should not take phosphatidylserine?

    Speak with your doctor before taking phosphatidylserine, especially if you take a blood thinner, antidepressant, antihistamine, or medication for glaucoma or Alzheimer's disease. The safety of supplements in people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established.

  • When should you take phosphatidylserine?

    Speak with your doctor about the best phosphatidylserine supplementation regimen for you. Generally, experts recommend taking it before bedtime if you're using it to counteract insomnia, or when cortisol levels are highest (e.g., in the morning and after exercise).

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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