By Sara Lovelady
There is perhaps no condition more feared than dementia. For most of us, it’s much easier to imagine losing our physical capacity as we age than our mental functioning. Fortunately, there is a natural compound that can help: Phosphatidylserine (PS), a fatty component of cell membranes. Consumption of PS may reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in the elderly.Ɨ And it can even enhance cognitive function in healthy individuals!*
Why PS is so important to nerve cells
PS contributes to cell membrane structure and fluidity.* That’s important because nerve cells rely on these membranes for effective signal transmission.* Therefore, if you want to be able to send messages to and from your brain, you need to have adequate PS.*
Our bodies make PS in the liver, but we also get some from food. It is most concentrated in fish and meat (especially organ meats). Vegetarian sources include white beans, soy, and sunflower seeds.
Researched benefits of phosphatidylserine
Research indicates PS can improve cognition for healthy individuals as well as those suffering from age-related cognitive decline.* Double-blind, placebo-controlled trials have found PS improved memory, processing speed, and processing accuracy in diverse populations.*
In a study published in 2010, elderly Japanese adults suffering from mild cognitive impairment took either PS or a placebo for six months. Compared to those taking the placebo, the folks taking PS experienced improvements in scores of cognitive decline and dementia.Ɨ Their improved performance remembering a list of words was especially notable. This is important because this task is a reliable test of dementia in its early phases.Ɨ
That study echoed an earlier study in which people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) saw significant improvement in cognitive measures after taking PS for 12 weeks.Ɨ Researchers noted that PS seemed to help those with less severe impairment the most and suggested “phosphatidylserine may be a promising candidate for study in the early stages of AD.”
A small study of young male athletes published in 2011 found supplementation with PS for two weeks improved their speed of calculation by 20 percent—and their accuracy too.* Volunteers taking PS supplied 13 percent more correct answers to subtraction problems and 39 percent fewer incorrect answers.*
Similar results were found in a study published in 2010 of older adults with no memory problems. Participants took PS complexed with omega-3 fatty acids for 15 weeks. At the end of the study period, their memory and learning processes had improved and the time needed to complete tasks had decreased.*
How phosphatidylserine works
PS may work by increasing glucose utilization in the brain, according to a 1990 study of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). After three weeks of supplementation with PS, glucose metabolism in subjects taking PS increased by 14.8 percent overall and by 13.5 to 16 percent in the areas of the brain most affected by AD.*
Early research on phosphatidylserine was conducted on PS derived from cow brains, but concerns about mad cow disease and other viruses led most suppliers to switch to vegetarian sources such as soy and sunflower seeds.
* This statement has not been reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Ɨ Very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim.