• Vitamins & Supplements
  • Updated November 10, 2016

Phosphatidylserine is a class of phospholipids found in cell membranes. Its levels and location within the brain can affect important signaling pathways for cell survival and communication. Phosphatidylserine includes two fatty acids that can vary from saturated or monounsaturated to polyunsaturated omega-6 and omega-3 versions like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Some clinical trials of phosphatidylserine supplements have shown modestly improved cognitive function, but better designed trials reported no benefit.


No clinical research—observational or randomized trials—has evaluated whether phosphatidylserine supplements can protect against cognitive decline or dementia. Our search found:

• 0 meta-analyses or systematic reviews
• Numerous randomized controlled trials (in young, elderly, or cognitively impaired adults)
• 0 observational studies
• Numerous preclinical studies

Potential Benefit

The amount of phosphatidylserine in the brain remains mostly constant throughout life, although slight changes have been reported with Alzheimer's disease and aging [2]. It is not clear whether supplements can increase phosphatidylserine brain levels, especially if they do not include DHA [1]. Small clinical trials suggest that phosphatidylserine supplements can yield slight cognitive improvements for elderly people, but effects were not large enough to be clinically relevant [3-5]. Long-term use has not been well-studied, but one trial reported that effects were short-lived, fading before six months [6]. The strongest trial of phosphatidylserine, which used a soy-derived formulation, reported no benefit [7].

For Dementia Patients

Small trials suggested that phosphatidylserine might slightly improve cognition for Alzheimer's patients but effects were short-lived or detectable only in severely impaired patients [6][8-10]. Benefits have not been confirmed in larger trials.


Small clinical trials suggest that phosphatidylserine supplements produce no serious adverse effects for elderly patients, although it may reduce blood pressure or increase body weight [11]. Since some supplements are prepared from cow brains, it is theoretically possible for those supplements to transmit prion diseases such as mad cow [12], though no cases have been reported.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive safety evaluation or complete list of potentially harmful drug interactions. It is important to discuss safety issues with your physician before taking any new supplement or medication.

How to Use

Phosphatidylserine doses typically range from 80 to 500 mg per day. While supplements derived from marine animals often contain high amounts of DHA, those derived from soy lecithin do not. The presence of DHA may be important for increasing synthesis of phosphatidylserine in the brain. However, in theory, any phosphatidylserine taken with a separate DHA supplement could have the same effect as DHA-enriched phosphatidylserine because phospholipids are broken down in the gut before being absorbed [1].

Learn More

Cognitive Vitality on Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)


  1. Kim, H.Y., B.X. Huang, and A.A. Spector, Phosphatidylserine in the brain: Metabolism and function. Prog Lipid Res, 2014. 56C: p. 1-18.
  2. Cunnane, S.C., et al., Plasma and brain fatty acid profiles in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease. J.Alzheimers.Dis., 2012. 29(3): p. 691-697
  3. Vakhapova, V., et al., Phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 fatty acids may improve memory abilities in non-demented elderly with memory complaints: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord, 2010. 29(5): p. 467-74.
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  8. Engel, R.R., 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): p. 149-55.
  9. Crook, T., et al., Effects of phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer's disease. Psychopharmacol Bull, 1992. 28(1): p. 61-6.
  10. Delwaide, P.J., et al., Double-blind randomized controlled study of phosphatidylserine in senile demented patients. Acta Neurol Scand, 1986. 73(2): p. 136-40.
  11. Vakhapova, V., et al., Safety of phosphatidylserine containing omega-3 fatty acids in non-demented elderly: a double-blind placebo-controlled trial followed by an open-label extension. BMC.Neurol., 2011. 11:79.: p. 79
  12. Requena, J.R., et al., The Priority position paper: Protecting Europe's food chain from prions. Prion, 2016. 10(3): p. 165-81.