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Phosphatidylserine

Review of Phosphatidylserine

What is Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine is a type of phospholipid, that is active at cell membranes and is a major building block of nerve cells.  Phospholipids are fat soluble substances that are found as structural components within the cell membrane of every cell in the human body. They make up the outer membrane which surrounds every cell in our body, separating the interior of the cell from the exterior.  Phosphatidylserine plays an important role in the repair of damaged cells, normal brain function, and is believed to aid in the growth of new muscle mass.

Phosphatidylserine is found in particularly high concentrations in the brain and in all nerve cells. Phosphatidylserine improves the functioning of the brain by improving the transfer of signals between brain cells.

Who Should Consider Taking Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine may benefit anyone looking to enhance mental function, improve recovery from exercise, decrease cortisol levels, and increase muscular strength and size.

Summary of Phosphatidylserine's Phyiological Effects:

  • Reduces Cortisol levels after exercise
  • May enhance endurance exercise performance
  • Reduces the effects of mental stresses such as anxiety
  • Improved mental function in the elderly
  • Enhanced learning performance in children
  • May Reduce the severity of depression
  • May repair damaged nerve networks
  • May promote regrowth of nerve networks
  • Appears to be safe and non toxic

Phosphatidylserine Research

One area of particular importance is in the role that Phosphatidylserine has on the level of cortisol in the blood.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released during periods of extreme physical or mental stress. Prolonged periods of raised cortisol are known to have deleterious effects on blood pressure, heart functioning, blood sugar levels, immune functioning, memory and mood (Kelly, 1999).

Of particular concern to all athletes, especially endurance athletes, or athletes that regularly train intensively, is the damaging effect cortisol has on muscle tissue.  Cortisol is known to increase the catabolism (breakdown) of muscle tissue.  Raised levels of cortisol, in the blood, will therefore, reduce the rate of recovery, post exercise, and possibly lead to reduced muscular strength and increased risk of overtraining.

Research has shown that the consumption of 800mg per day, of Phosphatidylserine for 10 days, significantly lowered the level of cortisol in the blood after exercise (Monteleone et al., 1992).  Even the consumption of 50-75mg of Phosphatidylserine significantly reduced the normal cortisol increase following exercise (Monteleone et al., 1990). Further research looked at the effects of daily Phosphatidylserine supplementation (800mg) on 11 male subjects undergoing two weeks of intensified weight training (Fahey and Pearl, 1998). The researchers found that Phosphatidylserine significantly decreased post-exercise cortisol levels, reduced muscle soreness, and reduced the levels of depression normally associated with overtraining.

The effects of Phosphatidylserine appear to be dose dependant, although 400mg of Phosphatidylserine significantly decreased cortisol levels, the consumption of 800mg was significantly more effective than the lower dose (Monteleone et al., 1992).

Research, shows a clear reduction in the cortisol response, following exercise and therefore should be of benefit to all athletes by reducing the effects of cortisol on muscle breakdown, immune function, and other effects on the human body. This should lead to an improved rate of recovery, post exercise, reduce the risk of overtraining, and possibly increases in muscular strength.

Recent research looking at the effects of consumption of 750mg of Phosphatidylserine found that Phosphatidylserine supplementation significantly increased the length of time taken to reach exhaustion (Kingsley at al., 2005). This may be due to the role that Phosphatidylserine has in ATP production (Kidd, 1999) as well as the way it enhances the function of nerve cells. Enhancing nerve cell function may improve the efficiency of muscular contractions. Therefore, Phosphatidylserine may also be useful as a potential performance enhancer for endurance athletes.

Phosphatidylserine supplementation has also been demonstrated to be of benefit by: reducing the effects of mental stresses such as anxiety (Maggioni et al., 1990; Benton, 2001; Hellhammer et al., 2004); improving mental function in the elderly (Crook et al., 1991); improving attention, behaviour, and learning performance in children and young adults (Kunin and Kidd, 1998; Kidd and Ryser, 1999); and reducing the severity of depression (Maggioni et al., 1990; Kidd, 1998; Castilho, 2004).

Phosphatidylserine is believed to have these positive effects on brain function by encouraging the re-growth of damaged nerve networks, conserving numbers, size, and functionality of nerve cells (Nunzi et al., 1989; Kidd, 1999). Phosphatidylserine is also believed to bring about the regrowth, and restoration of nerve networks within the brain (Kidd, 1998), and may revitalize metabolism across the brain (Klinkhammer et al., 1990).

Is Phosphatidylserine effective?

It appears to be highly effective at lowering blood cortisol levels post exercise. It also appears to be effective for enhancing mental performance in the elderly and young alike.

How to take Phosphatidylserine?

For reduced cortisol levels, athletes should look to take 400-800mg of PS per day.  For best results in lowering exercise induced cortisol levels, aim to take 400-800mg of PS 1-3hours before exercise. Best results occur with 800mg of PS per day. For improved memory consume around 300mg of PS per day, and for improved mood consume around 600mg per day. There are virtually no adverse effects associated with PS supplementation (Kidd, 1999).

Phosphatidylserine References

Benton, D., Donohoe, R. T., Sillance, B. and Nabb, S. (2001) The influence of phosphatidylserine supplementation on mood and heart rate when faced with an acute stressor. Nutr Neurosci. 4 (3), 169-178. 

Castilho, J. C., Perry, J. C., Andreatini, R. and Vital, M. A. (2004) Phosphatidylserine: an antidepressive or a cognitive enhancer? Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 28 (4), 731-738. 

Crook, T. H., Tinklenberg, J. and Yesavage, J. (1991) Effects of phospahtidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology. 41, 644-649. 

Fahey, T. and Pearl, M. (1998) The hormonal and perceptive effects phosphatidylserine administration during two weeks of resistive exercise induced overtraining. Biology Sport. 15, 145-144. 

Hellhammer, J., Fries, E., Buss, C., Engert, V., Tuch, A., Rutenberg, D. and Hellhammer, D. (2004) Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress. 7 (2), 119-126. 

Kelly, G. S. (1999) Nutritional and Botanical Interventions to Assist with the Adaptation to Stress.Alternatice Medicine Review. 4 (4), 249-265. 

Kidd, P. M. (1998) Phosphatidylserine (PS), A remarkable Brain Cell Nutrient. Decatur, IL: Lucas Meyer, Inc. 

Kidd, P. M. (1999) A Review of Nutrients and Botanicals in the Integrative Management of Cognitive Dysfunction. Alternative Medicine Review. 4 (3), 144-161. 

Kidd, P. and Ryser, C (1999) Benefits of phospahtidylserine (PS) on attention, learning, and mood in children and teenagers---a preliminary trial. Unpublished

Kingsley, M. I., Wadsworth, D., Kiduff, L. P., McEneny, J. and Benton, D. (2005) Effects of phosphatidylserine on oxidative stress following intermittent running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 37 (8), 1300-1306. 

Klinkhammer, P., Szelies, B. and Heiss, W. (1990) Effect of phosphatidylserine on cerebral glucose metabolism in Alzheimer’s Disease. Dementia. 1, 197-201. 

Kunin, R. and Kidd, P. (1998) Pilot study of phosphatidylserine (PS) in young children with attentional and behavioural abnormalities. Unpublished

Maggioni, M., Picotti, G. B. and Bondiolotti, G. P. (1990) Effects of phosphatidylserine therapy in geriatric patients with depressive disorders. Acta Psychiatr Scand (Denmark). 81, 265-270. 

Monteleone, P., Beinat, L., Tanzillo, C., Maj, M. and Kemalli, D. (1990) Effects of phosphatidylserine on the neuroendocrine response to physical stress in humans. Neuroendocrinology. 52, 243-248. 

Monteleone, P., Maj, M., Beinat, L., Natale, M. and Kemali, D. (1992) Blunting by chronic phosphatidylserine administration of the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in healthy men. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 42 (4), 385-388. 

Nunzi, M. G., Milan, F., Guidolin, D. and Toffano, G. (1987) Dendritic spine loss in hippocampus of aged rats Effect of brain phosphatidylserine administration. Neurobiol Aging. 8, 501-510.