From Ergo Log
Supplements containing complexes of phosphatidylserine and fish fatty acids have become mainstream. According to the manufacturers they protect the brain from the effects of aging. At first glance, the human studies published by Israeli researchers in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders would seem to confirm this claim.
The DHA and EPA found in fish oil is packed in a triglyceride. The body extracts the fish fatty acids from this packing, attaches them to a phosphatidylserine or phosphatidylcholine group, and then uses the molecules created as building blocks for cell membranes. Krill oil – and cow brain material too – contains readymade complexes of phosphatidylserine and DHA.
The figure below comes from the website of a manufacturer of phosphatidylserine-DHA complex supplements.
There is evidence that relatively high consumption of oily fish protects against brain disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer's and depression. And if oily fish does indeed protect the brain, then phosphatidylserine-DHA complex should be capable of doing so even better. At least, you'd think so.
In 2010 the neurologist Veronika Vakhapova published a study in which she tested the supplement Vayacog on healthy over-60s whose memory was starting to lapse. [Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2010;29(5):467-74.]
Vayacog is manufactured by the Israeli Enzymotec. [enzymotec.com] Enzymotec sponsored the study and three employees of the company were also co-authors.
Some of Vakhapova's subjects took a placebo daily; others took a daily dose of 300 mg phosphatidylserine, 60 mg DHA and 20 mg EPA for 15 weeks. This amounted to three capsules spread over the day. The supplementation had no significant effects.
At the end of the trial some of the experimental group and some of the placebo group continued to take the supplement, but in a lower dose. For another 15 weeks the over 60s took a daily 100 mg phosphatidylserine, 20 mg DHA and 6.8 mg EPA. This amounted to 1 capsule a day.
Now the subjects knew that they were taking a supplement.
The researchers did psychological tests to assess their subjects' memory function. They found no statistically significant effects in the subjects who had also taken a supplement in the first period of 15 weeks and then went on to the lower dose. The subjects' mental capacity did not decline either.
But in the subjects who had first taken a placebo and subsequently took the lower dose of the phosphatidylserine-DHA complex, Vakhapova did notice statistically significant effects.
The researchers themselves are optimistic. "These results, together with previous findings [...], justify further studies evaluating the effect of phosphatidylserine-DHA-complex also in more severely affected populations", they write.
Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord. 2014 Feb 20;38(1-2):39-45.