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Phosphatidylserine: The Ultimate Supplement Guide

Phosphatidylserine can improve exercise stamina and athletic performance

In this Ultimate Supplement Guide, we summarize the scientific literature and provide everything you need to know about phosphatidylserine in foods and supplements, all in one place.

This article contains more than 20 citations from reputable medical websites and scientific studies. We dug through mountains of medical literature so you don’t have to.

If you have any questions, concerns, or even rebuttals, please contact us or leave a comment below. Don’t be a stranger.

What is Phosphatidylserine and What are Phospholipids?

Elderly woman smilingPhospholipids are fats that help the cells of your body maintain their structures. All of your cells have them. The cells with the most phospholipids are your brain cells, specifically their cell walls. (1)

Phospholipids vary in importance. Phosphatidylserine ranks near the top of the list of these fats. It protects the integrity of your brain cells and helps energy-producing nutrients enter them. It also helps your brain cells communicate with each other and boosts energy metabolism in your brain. (1)

These functions make phosphatidylserine a very important fat for memory and other cognitive functions.

Your brain produces this compound naturally. Production declines as you age. Regardless of age, most of our phosphatidylserine comes from food.

Phosphatidylserine supplements used to be made of cow brains, but now they’re made with soy lecithin and sometimes cabbage. Intelligent Labs makes its phosphatidylserine supplement with sunflower lecithin. These options make vegetarians and vegans happy. Cow brains are weird anyway.

What is Phosphatidylserine Used For?

Phosphatidylserine supplements are most commonly recommended by doctors for treating: (2)

  • Early stage Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Cognitive decline
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Depression
  • Physical stress & pain from exercise
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Other common uses include enhancing cognitive and athletic performance.

We’ll dive into more details about the glories of this versatile fatty compound in the What are the Benefits section.

How Do You Pronounce Phosphatidylserine?

Foss-fuh-tid-dull-SEER-een

If you need a convenient mnemonic aid, just remember: There’s a tiddle in the middle.

There is a competing pronunciation some medical websites use. It’s the same, but the i in “tiddle” is long like the vowel in guy. The “ser” part of the word has a shorter vowel, like the ai in “stairs.”

Putting it all together gives us:

Foss-fuh-tye-dull-SAYR-een

Not sure whether this helps any, but: There’s a tidal in the midal. Maybe that doesn’t work as well, but use it if you want to.

Do Vegetarians Need Phosphatidylserine Supplements?

White beans are a good source of phosphatidylserineThere aren’t many plant sources with large quantities of it. According to Dr. Josh Axe’s website, low-fat and low-cholesterol diets don’t supply much phosphatidylserine. Neither does the average vegetarian diet. People used to get more of it from fats and oils, but modern production normally lowers the phosphatidylserine content. If you eat a lot of white beans, you may get plenty of it. (3)

If you don’t want to eat white beans every day, then try a supplement.

What are the Best Food Sources?

Food sources with the highest amount of Phosphatidylserine + Content in mg/100g: (3)(4)

  • Atlantic Mackerel, 480
  • Atlantic Herring, 360
  • Tuna, 194
  • Eel, 335
  • Chicken hearts, 414
  • Chicken livers, 123
  • Chicken legs with skin, 134
  • Pig kidney, 218
  • Soy lecithin, 5,900
  • White beans, 107
  • Cow brains, 713

While this list looks like it may be suitable for a cartoon witch’s cauldron, these are the top food sources. Honorable mentions go to veal, beef, mullet, chicken breast, and soft-shell clams. All of these have less than 100mg per 100g. A lot of fish species  – like cod, sardines, anchovies, and trout – contain very small amounts.

 Eel contains phosphatidylserine and improves memoryWhat are the Benefits of Phosphatidylserine?

Improves Memory & Cognitive Function

Phosphatidylserine is used in early Alzheimer’s cases to improve some symptoms. It’s less effective after symptoms become severe. Patients in the early stages who took a typical dosage of 300mg daily reduced some symptoms of the disease compared to a placebo group, although some cognitive test scores didn’t improve. The supplement was derived from cow brains. Overall, their quality of life improved a lot. (5)

A 1993 study of 494 elderly patients with non-Alzheimer’s cognitive impairment demonstrated improvements in cognitive function and behavior compared to a placebo. They took 300mg per day of cow brain phosphatidylserine for six months. (6)

A similar study in 2010 examined 78 elderly people with mild cognitive impairment, and this one also ran for six months. Their memories improved significantly in that period. They scored better on memory tests than the placebo people, who did not improve after the six months. The biggest improvements were under the umbrella of delayed verbal recall. The dosage was similar to the above studies, but the supplement came from soy lecithin. (7)

How about healthy adults with no cognitive impairment?

18 men spanning the ages of 18 through 29 joined a study in 2011 for this purpose. It was a crossover study, which means they each took phosphatidylserine in one trial and a placebo in the other. They took 400mg of a soy formulation daily in a protein bar for 14 days. The placebo was the protein bar without the phosphatidylserine. (8)

After the 14 days, they did lower-body resistance training. They were tested for changes in mood and cognitive ability (Serial Subtraction Test), and their blood was tested for changes in cortisol and testosterone. The tests were just before exercise, a few minutes after, and one hour after.

14 days of phosphatidylserine reduced errors in the Serial Subtraction Test (SST) by 39% and the time needed to make the calculations by 20%. In this type of test, you typically begin with a number like 100 and count down by repeatedly subtracting another number like 7. E.g. 100, 93, 86, 79, 72, etc.

The mood did not change between phosphatidylserine and the placebo. Neither did blood results.

The SST covers only certain memory and concentration functions. Scientists can only speculate about other cognitive improvements in young and healthy people by looking at studies of elderly people with memory problems. There will likely be more studies of younger people in the future.

Phosphatidylserine Alleviates ADHD Symptoms

Phosphatidylserine calms ADHD in children and adultsA 2014 study of 36 children from 4 to 14 years old demonstrated significant improvements in a large range of ADHD symptoms after two months.

Results included improvement in short-term auditory memory, inattention, and impulsive behavior compared to a placebo that brought no improvement. The dosage was 200mg daily of soy-based phosphatidylserine. (9)

Relieves Insomnia & Reduces Stress by Lowering Cortisol

Phosphatidylserine lowers cortisol, a major stress hormone, during physical and mental stress. The modern lifestyle in developed nations typically leads to high cortisol production and stress, and this contributes to insomnia.

A 2004 study examined 80 healthy adults who took varying dosages of a phosphatidylserine complex from plant sources for three weeks. Some took a placebo. After those three weeks, they were subjected to stress tests. Those who took 400mg daily had lower levels of cortisol and ACTH in the blood – and lower cortisol in the saliva – during stress tests compared to the placebo people. ACTH regulates cortisol and also triggers it. They were also less distressed by the stress tests and enjoyed better moods. Higher doses of 600mg and 800mg didn’t provide these benefits. (10)

Most people who use phosphatidylserine take 300mg per day. This is typically enough to reduce stress. Customers regularly report lower stress and better sleep when using 100mg three times daily.

Insomnia is one of the initial symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, and this is caused by phosphatidylserine depletion. Researchers in a 2018 study were able to restore normal sleep in animals with this problem. (11)

May Reduce Depression Symptoms

A 12-week study in 2015 study looked at the effects of not phosphatidylserine alone, but a supplement with that and omega-3. Patients were elderly and suffered from late life depression. The daily dosages were 300mg phosphatidylserine, 357mg of omega-3 in DHA form, and 210mg of omega-3 in EPA form. (12)

If you have read our Omega-3: The Ultimate Supplement Guide, you would know that high doses of DHA and EPA omega-3 (1,000mg to 6,000mg daily combined total) lower symptoms of numerous forms of depression. That’s true particularly when the EPA:DHA ratio is 60:40 or higher. The above study used much smaller doses and combined that with a standard 300mg daily dose of phosphatidylserine.

There is another study that looked at only phosphatidylserine without omega-3 and what it does for depression symptoms. The “Improves Memory & Cognitive Function” section above mentions a 1993 study of 494 elderly people with cognitive problems. Those who took 300mg daily improved a lot after six months. The supplement improved their depression scores, too, compared to the placebo. (6)

In a 1990 study of 10 elderly women with depression, memory and depression symptoms improved after mere days compared to when they took a placebo. The dosage was 300mg daily of cow-derived phosphatidylserine. Researchers did not know whether improvements in memory lowered the depression, vice versa, or whether phosphatidylserine directly altered either or both. (13)

Depression can be relieved with nutrientsLowers Anxiety Levels

You may have read above that phosphatidylserine lowers stress by lowering cortisol, the stress hormone, and improving mood. It also lowers another stress hormone called corticotropic-releasing hormone (CRH). CRH is often a major culprit in anxiety disorders, and elevated CRH sure does cause anxiety. (14)

Improves Exercise Endurance

The first study that looked at phosphatidylserine’s effects on the stamina was in 2006. 14 cyclists took either 750mg of a plant-based supplement daily or a placebo for 10 days. The supplement significantly raised “exercise time to exhaustion.” (15)

Eases Athletic Recovery & Muscle Damage

These benefits may depend on the dosage, type of exercise, the intensity of exercise, duration of phosphatidylserine use, and other factors. Researchers often scratch their heads when trying to interpret the science on this matter.

California State University researchers examined a group of 11 young male weight-lifters in 1998 to see whether phosphatidylserine would help them recover after overtraining. They took 800mg daily of plant-based phosphatidylserine or a placebo for two weeks. They measured muscle soreness and perceived well-being. The phosphatidylserine improved both metrics, especially after one week of overtraining. (16)

St. Cloud University researchers found good results when studying trained runners who ran for 90 minutes. 12 people took either 300mg, 600mg, or a placebo and performed the run after 15 days of use. They reported reduced muscle damage after looking at chemical indicators of muscle damage. (16)

However, a 2006 study of eight downhill runners measured chemical indicators of muscle damage, soreness, and oxidative stress. They also tested perceived muscle soreness. 750mg daily of phosphatidylserine for seven days before the intense running did not improve these measures compared to a placebo. They were tested before and after exercise and 24 and 48 hours later. (17)

Some studies show that phosphatidylserine keeps cortisol from spiking during intense exercise. This could help both performance and recovery. (18)(19)

Do You Need to Take DHA Omega-3 with Phosphatidylserine?

bird catches crab seafoodScientists in 2012 looked at the relationship between phosphatidylserine and essential fatty acids like omega-3’s DHA and EPA forms. They noted that proper levels of DHA in your brain are required for maintaining proper phosphatidylserine levels. (20)

Here’s an excerpt:

“… The membrane phosphatidylserine (PS) levels are dependent on the DHA status in neuronal cells. Neuronal membrane PS levels can be increased by DHA supplementation, whereas PS levels can be decreased in vivo by lowering DHA in neural tissues… DHA enrichment may represent a unique way of expanding the PS pool in mammalian membranes, although this phenomenon is limited to neuronal cells.”

A 2017 study by Purdue University published in the journal Nutrients found that 98% of Americans and Germans do not consume enough omega-3 to help prevent major health problems. A majority of that 98% who thought they got enough of it through diet actually did not. (21)

Intelligent Labs, recognizing the importance of essential fatty acids, developed a supplement called Ultra-Pure Omega-3. It is more potent than other supplements on the market. This is because common daily intake recommendations by governments are usually insufficient for reaping most of the scientifically proven rewards DHA and EPA have to offer. You can read about those in Omega-3: The Ultimate Supplement Guide.

What Should I Look for in a Phosphatidylserine Supplement?

Third-Party Lab Testing

Smart manufacturers hire independent and reputable third-party labs to inspect the product to ensure safety, quality, purity, and accurate labeling. Intelligent Labs is one of these manufacturers.

How do you know if a supplement is tested by a third-party lab? The lab provides a “certificate of analysis” for each product with full results. If you ask the manufacturer for one, they can send you a hard copy or PDF.

A Lack of Artificial Flavors, Preservatives, Colors & Binders

There is no need to pollute yourself with weird chemicals. Phosphatidylserine is safe and works just fine without these things.

Facilities are Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) Certified

GMP is an international standard recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other government regulatory agencies.

Intelligent Labs’ Phosphatidylserine 100g supplement meets all of the above standards, and it’s GMO-free. Our supplement is made from sunflower lecithin instead of soy lecithin.

Are There Any Side Effects or Interactions I Should Know About?

The two side effects mentioned on the WebMD website are insomnia and stomach upset, particularly when doses are higher than 300mg. Normally, phosphatidylserine promotes sleep. Very few people experience the opposite. Stomach upset isn’t very common either. (22)

There is not enough info to know whether it’s dangerous for pregnant or nursing mothers and their newborn or unborn children. Contact your doctor before adding a supplement to your routine.

Elderly man in good physical shapeWhen Should I Take Phosphatidylserine?

In almost every scientific study above, patients/volunteers took three doses per day. It’s good to spread out your doses as much as possible.

Because phosphatidylserine is a fat-soluble lipid, it is best to take it with food that contains fat to ensure higher absorption. If you eat three meals per day, take some with each meal.

What is the Proper Dosage for Adults & Children?

For most uses, 100mg three times daily is ideal. The scientific studies above typically followed this rule of thumb. Studies involving athletes tend to vary more on dosage. Those span from 300mg to 800mg, and they are usually split into three daily doses.

Some people with very high cortisol levels may need more than 300mg daily. Some may need up to 800mg.

Researchers in the ADHD study gave children 100mg doses twice daily. That seems like a good standard dose for children, regardless of whether they have ADHD.

How Long Does it Take for Phosphatidylserine to Work?

It depends on your goals. Many of the scientific studies above measured physical and mental performance, and other things, before and after a specific amount of weeks or months of supplementation. In some of them, researchers recorded positive effects in just a week or two. You might notice some results in days or weeks. Some benefits may increase from there, and some may not.

About This Ultimate Supplement Guide

Now you know what phosphatidylserine is and what its benefits are, and you’ve seen some scientific research to back them up. It shows a lot of promise as a stress-reducer, a cognition-enhancer, an exercise endurance-booster, and excellent all-around brain food.

It could help your muscles recover from exercise, depending on a number of factors (some unknown).

Your doctor’s or healthcare provider’s advice is always more important than the info in this article. We do not provide substitutes for sound and personalized medical advice based on lab tests and appropriate diagnostic methods. Furthermore, a lot of complex illnesses mimic each other with similar symptoms, making self-diagnosis extremely difficult.

Phosphatidylserine is a nutrient. Phosphatidylserine supplements are not intended to treat, cure, or prevent any particular disease.

Scientific References

1. Phosphatidyl Serine. (Reference page). DrugBank. (No date). https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00144

2. Phosphatidylserine. (Reference page). RxList. (No date). https://www.rxlist.com/phosphatidylserine/supplements.htm

3. Price A. What Is Phosphatidylserine? (Top 6 Benefits & How to Use It). Dr. Axe. (September 27th, 2019). https://draxe.com/nutrition/phosphatidylserine/

4. Souci SW, Fachmann E, Kraut H. (Book). Food Composition and Nutrition Tables. Medpharm Scientific Publishers Stuttgart. (2008). No link.

5. Engel RR, Satzger W, Günther W, et al. Double-blind cross-over study of phosphatidylserine vs. placebo in patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer type. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1992; 2(2): 149-55. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1633433

6. Cenacchi T, Bertoldin T, Farina C, Fiori MG, Crepaldi G. Cognitive decline in the elderly: a double-blind, placebo-controlled multicenter study on efficacy of phosphatidylserine administration. Aging (Milano). 1993; 5(2): 123-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8323999

7. Kato-Kataoka A, Sakai M, Ebina R, Nonaka C, Asano T, Miyamori T. Soybean-Derived Phosphatidylserine Improves Memory Function of the Elderly Japanese Subjects with Memory Complaints J. Clin. Biochem. Nutr.. 2010; 47(3): 246-255. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jcbn/47/3/47_10-62/_article

8. Parker AG, Gordon J, Thornton A, et al. The effects of IQPLUS Focus on cognitive function, mood and endocrine response before and following acute exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2011; 8: 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22017963

9. Hirayama S, Terasawa K, Rabeler R, et al. The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014; 27 Suppl 2: 284-91. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23495677

10. Hellhammer J, Fries E, Buss C, et al. Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress. 2004; 7(2): 119-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15512856

11. Valadas JS, Esposito G, Vandekerkhove D, et al. ER Lipid Defects in Neuropeptidergic Neurons Impair Sleep Patterns in Parkinson’s Disease. Neuron. 2018; 98(6): 1155-1169.e6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29887339

12. Komori T. The effects of phosphatidylserine and omega-3 fatty acid-containing supplement on late life depression Mental Illness. 2015; 7(1). https://www.pagepress.org/journals/index.php/mi/article/view/5647

13. Maggioni M, Picotti GB, Bondiolotti GP, et al. Effects of phosphatidylserine therapy in geriatric patients with depressive disorders. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1990; 81(3): 265-70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1693032

14. Lise A. Treatment Considerations for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Natural Medicine Journal. 2014; 6(4). https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/2014-04/treatment-considerations-generalized-anxiety-disorder

15. Kingsley MI, Miller M, Kilduff LP, McEneny J, Benton D. Effects of phosphatidylserine on exercise capacity during cycling in active males. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006; 38(1): 64-71. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16394955

16. Jäger R, Purpura M, Kingsley M. Phospholipids and sports performance. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2007; 4: 5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1997116/

17. Kingsley MI, Kilduff LP, McEneny J, Dietzig RE, Benton D. Phosphatidylserine supplementation and recovery following downhill running. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2006; 38(9): 1617-25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16960523

18. Monteleone P, Beinat L, Tanzillo C, Maj M, Kemali D. Effects of phosphatidylserine on the neuroendocrine response to physical stress in humans. Neuroendocrinology. 1990; 52(3): 243-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2170852

19. Monteleone P, Maj M, Beinat L, Natale M, Kemali D. Blunting by chronic phosphatidylserine administration of the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in healthy men. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1992; 42(4): 385-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1325348

20. Monteleone P, Maj M, Beinat L, Natale M, Kemali D. Blunting by chronic phosphatidylserine administration of the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in healthy men. Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1992; 42(4): 385-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3383770/

21. Thuppal S, von Schacky C, Harris W, et al. Discrepancy between Knowledge and Perceptions of Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake Compared with the Omega-3 Index Nutrients. 2017; 9(9): 930. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/9/930/htm

22. Phosphatidylserine. (Reference page). WebMD. (No date). https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-992/phosphatidylserine