New research backs phosphatidylserine’s role in memory, stress, and mood.
Phospholipid molecules are crucial components of cell membranes. They act as building blocks for cells and participate in the transmission of signals, while facilitating the transport of nutrients into and out of cells.
A key phospholipid that is particularly concentrated in high amounts in brain tissue is phosphatidylserine (PS), which makes up nearly 20% of the phospholipid mass of adult human plasma and intracellular membranes. Apart from its structural role, PS plays a critical functional role in the brain as it influences the metabolism of several neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine.(1)
Indeed, current studies continue to highlight the benefits of this ingredient for cognitive health and beyond. Findings from some of the latest research on PS for memory, stress, attention, and hyperactivity are presented here. In addition, we take a look at other health areas for which PS research is unfolding, such as sports nutrition and skin health.
1. Glade MJ et al., “Phosphatidylserine and the human brain,” Nutrition, vol. 31, no. 6 (June 2015):781-786
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Memory Support for Dementia
A recent double-blind placebo-controlled trial looked at the benefits of a soy-derived phospholipid mixture on aspects of memory, cognitive function, and mood in an elderly population with dementia.(2) Margret MorÃ© and colleagues from Berlin, Germany, evaluated the daily intake of three capsules of a blend of soy phospholipids-100 mg PS + 80 mg phosphatidic acid (PA)-for three months in non-depressed, elderly individuals with memory issues, as well as for two months in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Compared to placebo, the supplement significantly improved memory and enhanced mood in the elderly population. In the individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, the supplement stabilized measures of daily functioning as well as emotional state whereas deterioration was seen in the placebo group over the two-month study period. These results indicate the benefits of phospholipid supplementation on certain aspects of memory and cognition in elderly individuals with dementia and suggest that supplementation could be a beneficial adjunct measure for enhancing brain and mental health. The PS used in the study was supplied by Lipogen (Haifa, Israel).
2. MorÃ© MI et al., “Positive effects of soy lecithin-derived phosphatidylserine plus phosphatidic acid on memory, cognition, daily functioning, and mood in elderly patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia,” Advances in Therapy, vol. 31, no. 12 (December 2014): 1247-1262
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Memory Support for Healthy Adults
Phosphatidylserine (PS) and the omega-3 fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are both structural components that support brain health and integrity. An earlier double-blind placebo-controlled study evaluated the effectiveness of PS enriched with DHA on cognitive performance in elderly individuals with memory complaints, but no diagnosis of dementia, and found that 300 mg/day of PS enriched with DHA for 15 weeks significantly enhanced verbal immediate recall.(3) Furthermore, an analysis of subgroups found that those with higher baseline cognitive status were more likely to respond to the PS-DHA complex.
In a follow-up study to the original trial, researchers chose 122 individuals (61 from the original treatment group and 61 from the placebo group) to continue taking the PS-DHA combination (100 mg/day PS) for an additional 15 weeks.(4) The researchers found that those who continued on with the supplement from the original study maintained the improvements in cognitive status evident at the end of the first 15-week supplementation period, while those who were originally in the placebo group showed significant improvements in sustained attention and memory recognition after taking the PS-DHA combination. This further highlights the cognitive benefits of supplementation with PS-DHA in elderly individuals with memory complaints. Both trials studied Enzymotec’s (Migdal HaEmeq, Israel) ingredient.
3. Vakhapova V et al., “Phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory abilities in non-demented elderly with memory complaints: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial,” Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, vol. 29, no. 5 (2010): 467-474
4. Vakhapova V et al., “Phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory abilities in nondemented elderly individuals with memory complaints: results from an open-label extension study,” Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, vol. 38, no. 1-2 (2014): 39-45
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A placebo-controlled study investigated the effects of supplementation with a PS and PA complex on parameters of stress in chronically stressed males.(5) Led by Juliane Hellhammer of the Diagnostic Assessment and Clinical Research Organization (Daarco) in Trier, Germany, researchers assigned 75 healthy males with chronic stress (stratified by stress levels) to receive placebo or supplementation with the phospholipid combination in one of two doses-200 mg PS + 200 mg PA, or 400 mg PS + 400 mg PA-daily for 6 weeks. Levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH, a pituitary hormone that regulates the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands) as well as salivary and serum levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured at baseline and at the end of the trial period.
The 400-mg dose of PS + PA, but not the 200-mg dose, was shown to normalize ACTH and salivary and serum cortisol responses in those with chronically high stress levels, indicating a blunting of the physiological response to chronic stress. Thus, supplementation with PS and PA could prove useful in supporting the body’s response to chronically high stress levels. Lipogen supplies the ingredients under study.
5. Hellhammer J at al., “A soy-based phosphatidylserine/ phosphatidic acid complex (PAS) normalizes the stress reactivity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal-axis in chronically stressed male subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled study,” Lipids in Health and Disease. Published online Jul 31, 2014.
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Attention and Hyperactivity
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition impacting between 3% and 5% of school-aged children. A recent study evaluated the ability of soy-derived PS to help with certain aspects of this condition. Led by investigators from the Department of Childhood Education and Care, Kurashiki City College, in Okayama, Japan, 36 children aged 4-14 with ADHD not receiving drug therapy were administered 200 mg of PS per day or placebo for 2 months. (6)
PS supplementation improved several ADHD symptoms, including attention deficit, hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity. Furthermore, the study showed that PS was safe and well-tolerated in this young population. If the research is corroborated by larger studies, PS may be considered as a novel alternative to standard drug-based therapy for ADHD.
6. Hirayama S et al., “The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial,” The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Suppl 2 (April 2014):284-291
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Beyond the Brain
Research on PS over the years has pointed to the benefits of supplementation for cognitive health. More recently, research is pointing to other potential therapeutic benefits, including skin health and sports nutrition. In fact, it’s possible that research into the therapeutic potential of PS is only at the early stages and that the ingredient may hold significantly greater promise going forward. “PS is a health ingredient with a really big future,” says Ariel Katz, PhD, president and CEO of Enzymotec.
Take skin health, Enzymotec points out. Studies show that PS may help promote the development of collagen, as well as help restore skin moisture. In sports nutrition, PS has been shown to increase athletes’ time to exhaustion by up to 30% and reduce muscle soreness by as much as 50%; moreover, PS may also reduce levels of cortisol and increase levels of testosterone, helping promote muscle recovery.
“It’s got so much to offer,” Katz says. “It will continue to be strongly associated with cognitive health, but wider awareness of its benefits will mean that at last PS can reach its full potential.”
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