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Phosphatidylserine supplements are based on the lipid phosphatidylserine (PS). It is a phospholipid, which means that it is an essential component in cell membranes. PS is also important in regulating cell nutrient consumption and waste expulsion. Typically, phosphatidylserine is kept on the inner-leaflet of a cell, but when it undergoes apoptosis, or pre-programmed cell death, the PS becomes exposed.
This compound was first identified in cows, and this is the most abundant source for phosphatidylserine supplements. In 100 grams (g) of bovine brain, there are 713 milligrams (mg) of phosphatidylserine. Atlantic herring, by comparison, has only 360 mg per 100 g, and white beans have 107 mg per 100 g. The discovery that animal brains can carry pathogens dangerous to humans, such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — also known as mad cow disease — means that production of phosphatidylserine supplements has shifted to plant-based sources. One of the plants now used to produce this supplement is the soybean.
The most common use of this supplement is to combat dementia and cognitive dysfunction, especially in the elderly. Proponents of its effectiveness assert that it both increases the number of membrane receptor sites in the brain, and modulates the fluidity of the brain's cells in order to maximize cell communication. This, in theory, should lead to increased memory and a longer attention span. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated on May 13, 2003 that no significant scientific agreement existed among experts to assert that a relationship between phosphatidylserine supplements and cognitive function existed. This supplement has been given qualified health claim status by the FDA, which means that it may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction and dementia in the elderly.
Phosphatidylserine supplements are also used in sports nutrition. They have been linked to diminished muscle soreness and more rapid recovery of the body after exercise. The supplements are also of use in achieving hormonal balance for athletes, and can reduce stress levels. A 2007 study found that phosphatidylserine supplements helped reduce the stress experienced by golfers, and improved the accuracy of their tee-off shots.
This supplement is typically available in tablet or capsule form, and the daily recommended dose is 300 mg, taken in two or three small portions. Athletes in training for competition often use up to 800 mg per day. The human body will naturally produce all of the phosphatidylserine it requires, but no therapeutic effects will be gained unless an outside source is consumed. Side effects from taking phosphatidylserine supplements, such as mild gastrointestinal pain, are rare.
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