Phosphatidylserine: What is it? Benefits, Natural Sources, Supplements, Side Effects and Precautions

It is produced by the body, but we get most of our intake from food.

Have you ever heard of phosphatidylserine?

Most people have not, but would you believe that it is actually present in every human cell?

Yes it’s true. Phosphatidylserine has many vital functions in every tissue and organ in the body, but most importantly, it is a key building block for the billions of cells in your brain .

When food is not enough or we have a greater need for this vital molecule, supplements are another option.

It is a natural treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and is also used for age-related cognitive decline , depression , ADHD, and improved athletic performance.

What is Phosphatidylserine?

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a phospholipid that contains amino acids and fatty acids.

The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA work synergistically with PS to provide the building blocks for healthy cell membranes.

The human body can make phosphatidylserine, but it gets most of what it needs from food.

Phospholipids, which surround all of our cells, are essential molecules that provide cellular structure and protection.

A phospholipid molecule is built from four components: fatty acids, a platform to which fatty acids bind, a phosphate, and an alcohol attached to the phosphate.

Phospholipids line up and organize into two parallel layers known as phospholipid bilayers .

This is the layer that makes up cell membranes and is critical to each cell’s ability to function.

Phosphatidylserine is critical for the maintenance of all cellular functions, especially in the brain.

Research also shows that it is important for:

  • The formation of bone matrix.
  • The repair and elimination of cells by the immune system.
  • Coordination of the heartbeat.
  • Hormonal secretion by the adrenal glands.
  • Testicular function.


The following are some health benefits of Phosphatidylserine:

1. It can improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that can rob people of the ability to think clearly, perform everyday tasks, and ultimately remember who they even are.

Phosphatidylserine supplements can increase levels of memory-related brain chemicals and improve brain cell communication.

Although it is not a cure, taking phosphatidylserine can improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for some. It appears to be more effective in people with less severe symptoms.

In a double-blind, crossover study, people with Alzheimer’s disease took 300 milligrams of PS per day for eight weeks.

They had a greater improvement in general well-being than those who took a placebo, but there were no significant differences in mental function tests.

In another double-blind study, 200 milligrams of phosphatidylserine was taken twice daily by 70 patients with probable Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers found that PS supplementation produced short-term improvements in mental function, which were best documented at eight and 16 weeks, but these positive effects faded after 16 weeks.

Cow brain PS was used in these studies and most others, so it is not yet clear how animal-derived PS compares to plant-derived PS when it comes to treating Alzheimer’s.

2. Helps slow down age-related cognitive decline

Phosphatidylserine from bovine brain phospholipids has been shown to improve memory, cognition, and mood in the elderly in at least two placebo-controlled studies.

In both studies, elderly patients took 300 milligrams of PS per day or a placebo.

In the first study, 10 elderly women with depressive disorders were treated with a placebo for 15 days and then with a PS supplement for 30 days.

The researchers found that phosphatidylserine produced a steady improvement in depressive symptoms, memory, and behavior in all subjects.

Another study published in the journal Aging evaluated the effect of six months of PS supplementation in 494 elderly patients with cognitive impairment.

The researchers found that PS produced statistically significant improvements in cognitive and behavioral parameters after three months and again after six months.

Furthermore, phosphatidylserine was well tolerated by the subjects.

3. Fight depression

Studies show that patients with depression have compromised blood flow to various regions of the brain.

Having an omega-3 deficiency is a health condition that can decrease normal blood flow to the brain.

Omega-3 deficiency also causes a 35 percent reduction in PS levels in the brain.

So when someone is depressed, he or she is typically low in omega-3s and PS. It makes sense that increasing your PS intake through food and / or supplements can help fight depression .

Phosphatidylserine also affects levels of neurotransmitters in the brains related to mood, and research has shown that it can lessen the severity of depression.

In a preliminary trial, elderly women with depression who were given 300 milligrams of PS per day for 30 days experienced an average 70 percent reduction in the severity of their depression.

4. Improves symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disease of the nervous system that causes intentional loss of movement.

In general, people with Parkinson’s lose the ability to speak properly, have difficulty walking, and may also experience tremors.

There is no specific known cause, but people with Parkinson’s experience the death of brain cells that produce dopamine, which is responsible for signaling areas of the brain that are involved in movement.

When these brain cells die, the brain begins to lose the ability to tell the body when and how to move, resulting in Parkinson’s symptoms.

Phosphatidylserine is key to proper brain function, and people with Parkinson’s often have low levels of phosphatidylserine.

In one study, taking 100 milligrams of PS three times a day improved mood and brain function in people with Parkinson’s. The phosphatidylserine used in this assay was derived from cow brain.

5. Treat ADHD symptoms

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders in childhood.

Children with ADHD often have difficulty concentrating and controlling impulsive behaviors and are overly active. ADHD can affect adults too.

For people diagnosed with ADHD, phosphatidylserine has been shown to help increase mental focus, promote memory and cognition, improve mood, and relieve stress through a reduction in cortisol levels.

PS has been shown to promote increased brain activity through neurotransmitters, improving the ability of ADHD patients to focus, better control impulses, and learn without becoming easily fatigued.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics wanted to find out if supplementation with soy-derived phosphatidylserine can improve ADHD symptoms in children.

This randomized, double-blind study had 36 children, ages 4 to 14, who had not previously received any drug treatment for ADHD and took a placebo or 200 milligrams of PS per day for two months.

The researchers found that PS supplementation significantly improved ADHD symptoms as well as short-term auditory memory.

They conclude that PD could be “a safe and natural nutritional strategy to improve mental performance in young children with ADHD.”

6. Increases athletic performance

Phosphatidylserine has been shown to improve athletic performance in several studies.

It has also been shown to decrease muscle damage while enhancing the endocrine response to exercise-induced bodily stress.

A 2007 study published in the Journal of the International Society for Sports Nutrition evaluated the effect of oral PS supplementation on golf performance in healthy young golfers.

Although the findings were not statistically significant, it was concluded that six weeks of PS supplementation improved the golfers’ perceived stress levels and significantly improved the number of good ball flights during tee-off.

Another study looked at the effects of daily supplementation of 750 milligrams of soy-derived phosphatidylserine for 10 days in active male cyclists.

The main finding of the study was that PS supplementation significantly increased exercise time to exhaustion by 85 percent V̇O2 max.

VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that a person can use during intense exercise.

It is a factor that can determine an athlete’s ability to perform sustained exercise and is linked to overall aerobic endurance.

This study shows the ability of phosphatidylserine to enhance physical performance.

The Best Ways to Increase Phosphatidylserine Naturally

Four things are known to lower phosphatidylserine levels: aging, stress, modern diets, and modern food production.

Aging naturally increases the brain’s need for phosphatidylserine, but it also creates digestive and metabolic inefficiency, so it’s simply not possible to get enough phosphatidylserine in your diet.

Stress simultaneously increases your phosphatidylserine requirements and decreases your phosphatidylserine levels.

Modern production of fats and oils decreases their natural content of phospholipids, including phosphatidylserine.

Modern low-cholesterol, low-fat diets lack up to 150 milligrams per day of dietary phosphatidylserine, while a vegetarian diet may have less than 200 to 250 milligrams per day.

How Can You Get Phosphatidylserine Benefits Naturally With Food?

The highest dietary source is soy lecithin, which is derived from soybeans. Cow brain is the next highest source, but I do not recommend consuming it due to the risk of mad cow disease.

Here are some of the top PS-rich foods (measured in milligrams of PS per 100 grams):

  • Soy lecithin: 5,900.
  • Bovine Brain: 713.
  • Atlantic Mackerel: 480.
  • Chicken heart: 414.
  • Atlantic herring: 360.
  • Tuna: 194.
  • Chicken Leg, With Skin, Boneless: 134.
  • Chicken liver: 123.
  • White Beans: 107.
  • Chicken Breast (With Skin): 85.
  • Salmonete: 76.
  • Veal: 72.
  • Beef: 69.
  • Turkey leg (skinless and boneless): 50.
  • Turkey Breast (Without Skin): 45.
  • Anchovy: 25.
  • Whole barley: 20.
  • Sardina: 16.
  • Trout: 14.
  • Rice (unpolished): 3.
  • Carrot: 2.
  • Sheep’s milk: 2.
  • Cow’s milk (whole, 3.5 percent fat): 1.
  • Papa: 1.

How to Find and Use Phosphatidylserine Supplements

Phosphatidylserine is now available as a dietary supplement derived from soy lecithin. It can also be made from cabbage or sunflower.

Previously, phosphatidylserine supplements were made from cow brains, but there was concern that these animal-derived supplements could cause mad cow disease in consumers.

So bovine PS is not currently available in the United States.

PS supplements can be found at your local health store or online. Go for a reputable brand.

The more expensive brands of phosphatidylserine supplements tend to be better than the cheaper versions.

PS100 or PS 100 is a phosphatidylserine supplement that contains 100 milligrams of PS per serving or capsule.

Complex phosphatidylserine supplements typically have at least 500 milligrams of PS in a single capsule and also contain additional phospholipids.

For Alzheimer’s disease and other age-related memory or thinking problems, scientific research supports a 100-milligram dose of phosphatidylserine three times a day.

Some research has shown that PD seems to work better in people with mild Alzheimer’s symptoms, but it may stop working after about 16 weeks.

For mood, it is best to take PS with at least 200 milligrams of EPA and 200 milligrams of DHA.

Side Effects and Precautions with Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is considered safe when taken orally in adequate doses. In studies, it has been used for up to six months.

Possible side effects of phosphatidylserine, especially in doses over 300 milligrams, include insomnia and an upset stomach.

You should not take phosphatidylserine if you take any type of blood thinner. You should also be careful when combining it with natural blood thinning supplements like ginkgo biloba.

If you have a chronic medical condition or are trying to conceive, pregnant, breastfeeding, under the age of 18, or taking other medications, talk to your doctor before taking PS.

Final thoughts

  • Phosphatidylserine is crucial for cell function, especially in our brain.
  • Phosphatidylserine is made in our bodies, but we get most of our PS from food.
  • If you are on a low-fat or low-cholesterol diet or under chronic stress, it is easy to have a low PS level.
  • Cow brain is the best animal source of PS, although it is not available in the US due to mad cow disease, while soy lecithin is the best plant source.
  • PS supplementation has been shown in scientific studies to improve Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, age-related cognitive decline, ADHD, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and athletic performance.