PS (PhosphatidylSerine, pronounced fos-fa-tie-dil-ser-een) is a nutrient that supports many brain functions, and many of our most important life processes. PS has a sophisticated molecular structure in the vital lipid class. Biochemically PS is a phospholipid (fos-fo-lip-id), not technically a fat but working closely with “good fats”—essential fatty acids.
PS is an orthomolecule. The Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling coined this term to describe molecules orthodox to the body, that is, integral to our life chemistry. For this reason orthomolecules usually are very safe and beneficial dietary supplements. PS is an excellent example of an orthomolecule. PS has been extensively tested as a brain nutrient, having been put through more than 25 double-blind trials. Under this tough “gold standard” of human medical research, PS was found measurably beneficial and extremely safe to use long term. PS improves key higher mental functions (cognition) and other factors such as mood and behavior that influence productivity and quality of life.
A Lipid Vital for Body and Brain
The term “vital lipids” refers to the phospholipids and essential fatty acid nutrients. The phospholipid structure of PS incorporates essential fatty acids, including the very important long-chain, omega-3 DHA and EPA. These substances enable us to make life energy from our foods and to use this energy for literally all our life processes.
Being a phospholipid makes PS a molecular building block for life. PS is essential for creating the membranes that make our cells work. Without membranes cells could not exist, or any life as we know it.
Taking PS Helps Keep the Brain Sharp
PS is one of the most intensively studied dietary supplements. Over several decades, besides the many double-blind (DB), trials there have been over a hundred other human studies, and thousands of “basic science” papers published on PS. The double-blind (“DB”) trials documented benefits from PS in the areas of memory, learning, comprehension, mood, anxiety and coping with stress. These favorable findings resulted in the FDA allowing qualified health claims for PS.
The brain contains a lot of PS, more of it than any other organ. This is a clue that PS is very important for brain health. Experimental research discovered PS serves many key functions in nerve cells. Among them are the generation of electrical signals, the electro-chemical transmission of these signals along brain circuits, and energy production all across the brain.
PS Supports Mental Performance All Through Life
In the clinical trials, using PS as a dietary supplement has improved the quality and enjoyment of life for subjects of all ages. The earlier DB trials were done with volunteers over the age of 50, but in recent years there have been many DB trials with people younger than 50, including college students and children. The findings from the trials were consistent: PS improved a great variety of brain functions in people of all ages, and without side effects.
Several of the trials found that PS slows memory and other cognitive decline in the over-50 population. For middle-aged people (ages 50 – 65), in the DB trials PS scored statistically significant benefits for memory, learning, concentration, and word recall. People over 65, including some with bad memory problems, experienced measurable improvement in brain energy utilization, as shown on Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning. Using labeled glucose as an energy indicator, PET documented markedly increased brain energy in people taking PS daily (refer to the figure).
In addition to the many DB trials conducted in Europe, two other memory-cognition DB trials were conducted in the United States by renowned memory expert Dr. Thomas Crook and his colleagues (see Further Information). In the first of these, Crook’s team studied healthy people whose memory tested abnormally poor for their age. They found that PS may restore up to 12 years’ worth of memory and other cognitive functions. The researchers concluded PS may have “turned back the clock” on brain aging.
The Crook team’s second DB trial was done on people with memory problems so severe their productivity was impaired. PS improved memory also in this population. A subgroup that was less severely impaired benefited more from PS. Many progressive-thinking physicians have incorporated PS into their brain support protocols. The earlier an individual can be started on PS, the better their chances for a stabilization or reversal of their memory problems.
Benefits to Mood and Stress Management
In addition to its proven benefits for memory, learning, comprehension, and other higher-level cognitive functions, PS can benefit mood control and stress management.
PS can improve energy utilization in the brain. These PET scans show the brain of a 59-year-old woman before (top) and after taking PS (bottom). The red and yellow colors indicate zones with improved glucose consumption. From Klinkhammer and others, 1990. Dementia 1, 197.
In two double-blind trials on people over 60, PS improved measures of mood, including “the winter blues,” as well as anxiety, irritability and sociability. Human and animal studies suggest PS is not changing transmitter levels, but instead increasing the sensitivity of their receptors in the nerve cell membranes. British professor David Benton is internationally recognized for his research on brain function. In 2001 his team published a double-blind trial that demonstrated PS can benefit young, healthy people. University students in their early twenties received PS or a placebo for 10 days, then were made to do challenging arithmetic in their heads without the aid of calculators. Those students who had reported a tendency to become anxious reported improved mood and self-confidence from taking PS.
More recently (2007), in another double-blind trial young, healthy golfers were tested for their driving accuracy after taking PS (or a placebo) for six weeks. Statistical analysis of the 20 drives by each subject determined that their accuracy was improved from taking PS. Many of them reported more calmness while on the course, after six weeks on 200 mg per day of PS.
Studies with PS for Children
The orthomolecule PS is safe for children. I worked with two physicians to assess PS in children. This research began after two grandmothers separately told me they gave PS to their grand kids and noticed that the kids’ attention and behavior seemed to improve. Under medical supervision and with parents’ informed consent, we studied 31 children aged 3–19 years in two separate studies.
Each child received PS at 200 or 300 mg per day, depending on body size, for up to four months. Out of the total 31 children who received PS, 28 showed marked improvement. Attention, concentration, learning, and behavior all improved. PS seemed to improve their academic performance, and benefited depression and anxiety in many of the children.
These were not double-blind trials, but the benefits apparent to these children’s parents, grandparents, and the medical professionals in our studies resemble what PS accomplished in the DB trials on adults.
PS is a Safe and Effective Brain Tune-up
PS is present not only in our brains but in all our cells, tissues, and organs. It is irreplaceable for our brain cells to make energy. It is important for the nerve cells to stay connected, and essential for at least nine transmitters to act normally on their receptors. Altogether, these activities of PS translate into wholebrain effects that help explain the impressive benefits seen in the DB trials.
It is now known the human brain does produce new nerve cells, and can make new circuits under the influence of growth factors. The phenomenon is called brain plasticity. In animal experiments PS partially conserves the brain receptors for nerve growth factor (NGF), against age-related losses. This support for brain plasticity is consistent with the clinical brain revitalization effects of PS.
With its virtually perfect safety record and well-documented brain benefits, taking PS is a valuable option for people worried about their declining memory, or simply for those wanting a mental tune-up. PS is safe to take along with other clinically proven brain nutrients, or even pharmaceuticals. For the individual wanting the best results, paying close attention to diet, getting physical exercise, and keeping the brain busy (“use it or lose it”)—all are important in order to ensure the most benefit from PS.
How to Take PS for Best Results
A good way to get going on PS is to pre-load at 200–300 mg per day for the first month. This is the dosage range used in the trials. Most people experience benefit at this level within three weeks to three months. Some adults and children will take longer to experience benefit. Once improvement kicks in, the higher intake can be continued for further benefit, or reduced to as low as 100 mg per day.
In summary, the large body of clinical and experimental data available on PS encourages confidence that it will be a worthwhile investment for those who decide to take it. PS is intrinsic to a wide range of processes vital to life in general and to brain functioning in particular. The thousands of studies on PS predict it should be a premier brain nutrient, and the extensive double-blind clinical testing confirms its practical benefits. From birth to old age, everyone stands to gain from supplementing his or her diet with this vital lipid.
- 1. Kidd PM, 2007. PS (PhosphatidylSerine), Nature’s Brain Booster for Memory,
- 2. Phospholipids educational Web site, www.phospholipidsonline.com.
- 3. Crook TH and others, 1991. Neurology 41, 644. 4. Crook TH and others, 1992. Psychopharmacology Bulletin 28, 61.