Phosphatidylserine: A Superhero for Your Brain
Written By: Nicole Crane, B.S., NTP
Picture this: You’re trying to get driving directions from someone with poor cell phone reception and every third or fourth word fades out. You may be able to hear enough to understand the basics of what they’re saying, but it is likely that several important pieces of information would be missed.
Uninterrupted communication is the key to brain health and overall mental wellness, including memory, mental energy, focus and even coordination and balance. The brain must be able to communicate within itself in order to know which bio-chemicals to make. One of the most critical nutrients for healthy brain function is as hard to pronounce as it is essential - phosphatidylserine (pronounced FOS-FO-TIE-DYL-SER-INE).
Nerve Cell Signals as We Age
Nerve signals can be interrupted, distorted, or lost, and the brain simply cannot communicate at the same rate as it did when we were younger. When nerve communication loses its integrity, memories are not properly stored and recalled, and the brain has trouble keeping up with energy demands. Healthy nerve communication also effects the signals that tell the brain what neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) it needs to make and when to make them. This impacts the sleep cycle, mood, and mental health, such as how we cope with stress. Nerve signaling also affects the rest of the body, helping the brain coordinate with every part.
Phosphatidylserine for Optimal Brain Function
There are several therapeutic benefits that make phosphatidylserine a powerhouse nutrient for optimal brain function. Without the nerve cell's ability to send its signals to the next nerve, those chemicals that eventually become our stored memories become lost. What’s more, phosphatidylserine is critical to healthy cell membranes and brain tissue in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus. Its job is to regulate the process of turning short-term memories into long-term memories.[iv]
Phosphatidylserine supports optimal communication, beyond transmitting the nerve signals down the line; it also increases the number of receptor sites on the cell membrane[x] , allowing more messages to be received by nerve cells and other cells. Phosphatidylserine is also essential for the brain to properly metabolize glucose [xi] (sugar), which is essential for healthy brain energy. Many people who lack phosphatidylserine in their brain are easily mentally fatigued and find trouble concentrating for long periods of time. This powerhouse nutrient also supports the brain cell’s ability to release and bind with neurotransmitters, further aiding in healthy mood, brain communication, and cognitive ability.
Mental Health Benefits
New research even suggests that during extended periods of high stress, the hippocampus can shrink in size due to the high levels of stress hormones in the brain.[vi] Damage to the hippocampus leads to the disconnection of nerve pathways, and new brain cells fail to form. We also suffer damage to the natural mechanisms that inhibit stress responses, and the body has trouble responding appropriately to future stressors.[vii] Fortunately, phosphatidylserine seems to act as a potent protector of this stress-induced damage, sparing the brain from shrinkage and boosting memory function.[viii]
This marvelous nutrient also has a great impact on our mood, also by regulating the way the brain can communicate within itself. Our brain is controlled by bio-chemicals known as neurotransmitters – think of these as the different letters of the alphabet. The more letters in a language’s alphabet, the more complex the language. Serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, adrenaline and norepinephrine are a few of the most well-known neurotransmitters and their healthy balance can have great effects over your emotional state and reactions.
There are many factors that affect brain chemistry, like stress, sugar, overall nutrition, drugs (both prescription and recreational), and genetics. The various parts of the brain must be able to communicate effectively with each other in order to know which neurotransmitters to make and when to make them. When proper communication is not taking place, we can end up feeling low and depressed with too many inhibitory neurotransmitters, or feel anxious and edgy with too many excitatory brain chemicals.
Phosphatidylserine for Athletes
Phosphatidylserine is also an ideal supplement for athletes for several reasons. The ability of this nutrient to increase the speed at which the nerve signal is carried can help muscle contractions increase in speed, boosting reflex and muscle responses when every second counts. Phosphatidylserine and acetyl-choline also support healthy heart muscle contractions and heart rhythm through a different part of the nervous system. These nutrients can prevent your heart rate from soaring too high during intense athletic activity as well.
I recommend this product when the brain just is not functioning the way it’s supposed to. This can mean anything from poor memory to those suffering from long-term stress. Because of the way Phosphatidylserine functions in the brain, older people who have had a decline in their memory tend to gain the most long-term benefits. The way the brain works is amazing. But every body system can benefit from a recharge from time to time. For the brain and nerves, that charge is phosphatidylserine.
[iii] Kidd P. Phosphatidylserine. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing, Inc.; 2009
[iv] Squire, LR; Schacter DL. The Neuropsychology of Memory. Guilford Press. 2002
[v] Hampel H, Bürger K, Teipel SJ, Bokde AL, Zetterberg H, Blennow K. "Core candidate neurochemical and imaging biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease". Alzheimers Dement 4(1): 38–48. 2008
[vi] Helhammer, J et al; Effects of Soy Lecithin Phosphatidic Acid and Phosphatidylserine Complex (PAS) on the Endocrine and Psychological Responses to Mental Stress; Stress, 2004, 7:2,119-126
[vii] Squire, LR; Schacter DL. The Neuropsychology of Memory. Guilford Press. 2002
[viii] McEwen B. Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators: central role of the brain. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2006; 8: 367-381.
[x] Kidd PM. Phospholipids: Versatile Nutraceuticals for Functional Foods.Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. 2002
[xi] Kidd PM. Phospholipids: Versatile Nutraceuticals for Functional Foods.Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. 2002
[xviii] Kidd PM. Phospholipids: Versatile Nutraceuticals for Functional Foods.Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. 2002
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