Phosphatidylserine (PS) is supplement that has been found to hold great promise for people suffering from various pathologies that affect the brain, such as certain forms of dementia, Alzheimer's, and others. Early European studies showed phosphatidylserine could slow and reverse the rate of brain cell aging in laboratory animals.
PS also restored mental function in older animals to levels exceeding those found in some younger animals (although studies in humans with Alzheimer's disease were less impressive, PS still produced improvements in cognitive function). Research has shown that in addition to improving neural function, PS appears to enhance energy metabolism in brain cells. In the brain, PS helps maintain cell membrane integrity and may protect brain cells against the functional deterioration that occurs with "normal" aging.
PS is usual derived from soy. Brain tissue has been found to be especially rich in PS and it appears aging causes a decline in the PS content of cells throughout the body. So, it's no wonder that longevity groups and individuals concerned with brain function due to various causes have taken an interest in PS.
What does PS offer the athlete? One affect of PS may be its ability to reduce levels of the catabolic (muscle wasting) hormone cortisol after exercise. Two early studies done in Italy appeared to show that chronic intakes of PS reduced the release of cortisol after intense exercise. When the body senses stress, whether physical and/or emotional, it releases cortisol as part of the "fight or flight" cascade that prepares us for short term survival. Prolonged stress from malnutrition, surgery, over training and sleep deprivation, as well as psychological stress, causes a systemic effect that includes increased cortisol secretion resulting in a decline in certain aspects of immune system and other problems.
As the reader can see, over long periods of time, high cortisol levels are detrimental to our over all health and muscle mass.
PS does suffer from one key draw back, which is its shear cost. The most recent study that found PS reduced post exercise cortisol levels, used 800mg per day with 10 well trained subjects who were intentionally over trained, found approximately a 20% reduction in post exercise cortisol levels.
The study also found post workout sourness reduced and general feelings of 'well being' increased in the group using PS. At 800mg doses used, it's an expensive proposition, but possibly worth the cost. However, the original studies out of Italy found PS lowered cortisol used only 50 and 75mg per day, so this may at least be a starting dose to try.
Another drawback is that PS has not been studied to see whether or not it would truly improve either performance or muscle mass in athletes, which is ultimately why an athlete would use such a product (well, perhaps a Chess master would use it for the potential cognitive effects).
PS is definitely one of those supplements to keep an eye on in this writer's opinion, but further study as it relates to athletes is clearly needed. As it related to its potential health uses, that looks more solid.
At this time, PS gets a tentative thumb's up for athletes but again, it's far from clear what effects it will have on muscle mass or performance or what the optimal dose is.
Kelly, G. S. "Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the adaptation to stress," Altern Med Rev. 4/4 (1999), p. 249-65.
Monteleone, P., M. Maj and D. Kemali, et al. "Blunting by chronic phosphatidylserine administration of the stress-induced activation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis in healthy men," Eur. Jour. Clin. Pharmacol. 42/4 (1992), p. 385-8.
Monteleone, P. and L. Beinat and et al. "Effects of phosphatidylserine on the neuroendocrine response to physical stress in humans," Neuroendocrinology 52/3 (1900) p. 243-8.
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