May 16, 2016

Phosphatidylserine, popularly known as PS, is an important phospholipid, deficiencies of which are associated with cognitive impairments[1]. Located in the internal layer of the cell membrane, PS performs various unique regulatory and structural functions. It is one of the most important brain nutrients and modulates the activities of receptors, enzymes, signalling molecules and ion channels while influencing numerous neurotransmitter systems[2].

In the human cerebral cortex, phosphatidylserine accounts for 13-15% of the phospholipids. They are localized in cytoplasmic leaflet forming a part of docking sites – Akt, protein kinase C and Raf-1 – that are vital for the activation of the several key signalling pathways in the plasma membrane. They play a significant role in stimulating neuronal survival, neurite growth and synaptogenesis[3]. PS has multiple health benefits for the human body. Many experiments have been conducted to study these effects.

One such study was conducted to investigate whether supplementation with PS could improve the symptoms of ADHD in children. Research was conducted on 36 children, aged between 4 and 14 years who had no history of drug treatment related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The children were provided with placebo (n = 17) or 200 mg of PS (n = 19) for 2 months. The study revealed that the PS supplementation ameliorated ADHD symptoms and short-term auditory memory disorder in children. Phosphatidylserine supplementation also proved to be a safe and natural strategy for improving mental performance in young children suffering from these disorders[4].

Additionally, PS fights against the stress-induced activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis when faced with a physical or mental stressor. Multiple studies show that phosphatidylserine can ameliorate spikes in ACTH and cortisol in chronically stressed individuals faced with an acute stressor[5, 6]. Among healthy college students, PS has proved to enhance their mental performance during the stress of a calculus test[7].

Additionally, phosphatidylserine is considered to be a promising treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and similar disorders. In Alzheimer’s disease, nerve cells degenerate for unknown reasons. However, treatment with PS is believed to nourish the cell membrane and protect cells from degenerating. A study was conducted to investigate the effect of phosphatidylserine on the memory of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The study demonstrated that the continuous intake of PS for 12 weeks helped in the enhancement of vocabulary and picture matching scores. In addition, the hippocampal cells displayed normal arrangement, and karyopyknosis reduced significantly[8]. These studies demonstrate the powerful effects of the PS in improving memory and decreasing hippocampal damage while reducing the levels of cholinesterase.

In addition, athletes and bodybuilders are increasingly using phosphatidylserine as a supplement to promote improved recovery after a training session or a competition. Intense exercise leads to the release of cortisol and those who exercise on a regular basis often have high levels of cortisol. This increases recovery time and negatively impacts following workout performance. In order to reduce the post workout exercise induced cortisol spike, athletes and bodybuilders make use of PS capsules[9, 10]. PS also prevents subjective measures such as muscle soreness and helps athletes to feel strong after exercise[11].

Supporting the above mentioned advantages of PS for athletes, a study was conducted to examine the influence of short-term supplementation on plasma concentrations of cortisol, lactate, growth hormone, and testosterone before during and after moderate intensity exercise in healthy males. Ten healthy men who participated in the study were assigned to ingest 600mg of phosphatidylserine for 10 days using a double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover design. The study suggested that the PS supplementation successfully combated exercise-induced stress and also prevented physiological deterioration that can accompany too much exercise[12].

PS is important for every cell in the body. Due to its involvement in numerous signalling mechanisms it play an important role in the formation of bone, adrenal health, testicular function, heart rhythm, cellular repair and immune function[13].

Interestingly, the addition of calcium and magnesium to phosphatidylserine can induce changes that increase the absorption of PS. Studies have shown that ionic calcium and magnesium complex with phosphatidylserine molecules creating vesicles that readily fuse with cell membranes[14, 15]. Calcium is also necessary as a co-factor for many of the functions that PS performs in the cell membrane[16, 17].

It is evident from the studies that the phosphatidylserine plays an active role in benefiting cognition, regulating neurotransmitters, promoting speedy recovery from exercise, normalising cortisol levels while promoting overall health.

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