As we reach the third decade of the 21st century, it is increasingly evident that the population is aging, a global process that affects all countries, and which is more prominent in specific countries such as Italy, Germany and Japan. In these countries, it is expected that approximately 40% of the population will be over the age of 60 by 2050, compared to close to 27% in the US.1 As “baby boomers” reach their 60s and 70s, becoming “elder boomers”, it is not expected that the aging of the population will slow down.
Population aging is already affecting all life aspects, from health systems over social systems to economics. For people and societies alike, healthy, successful aging becomes an increasingly important issue. But what is “healthy, successful aging”? Well, sometimes that is very personal, but in general it refers to disease-free years, years of active lifestyle, physically and mentally. To live 3, or 5 or 10 years longer is great but only if these are healthy years with a high quality of life.
Thus, it is not surprising that many people are looking for solutions to improve their lives and maintain their health; keep their hearts pumping, their joints flexible and, more and more so in recent years, their brains sharp and active.
Many after the age of 50 start to suffer from age-related cognitive decline also known as age-related memory impairment (AAMI). People with AAMI are defined as healthy, yet still the impact of forgetting names, places where they put their car keys or glasses and other daily functions, may still reduce their quality of life.
The world of nootropics – food ingredients whose consumption may improve certain cognitive traits in healthy people – evolved mainly to answer the needs of the growing elderly population, especially those suffering from AAMI.
Phosphatidylserine, PS for short, is a building block of cell membranes, found in all living cells. PS is also a natural component of our food. A human first consumes PS when it suckles from its mother, because human milk contains PS among other phospholipids. Every food from biological origin (fruits, vegetables, meat and fish) contains some PS, though levels are relatively low. The average consumption of PS through regular diet is estimated to be around 130mg per day. Nonetheless, for specific populations, such as vegan or vegetarians and children, the estimation is much lower.2 Thus, for many, supplementation with PS is the only way to ingest 100-300mg per day, the amount, on top of regular diet, that is shown to be clinically effective.
An interesting fact about PS is that it is especially enriched within the brain, up to 6 times more so than in any other tissue.3 This fact intrigued researchers to examine the role of PS within the brain, leading to years of research which in turn led to a clear understanding that supplementation with PS can have certain benefits for human cognition. Benefits of PS consumption are not immediate, it is not a cognitive booster, but improvement can be seen over time. Unlike cognitive boosters, working quickly but for a short period of time, the effect of PS builds up and is sustained over time, so people may benefit from its consumption over the long run. This fact about PS ingestion was shown in Japanese elderly, who consumed PS or a placebo, for a period of 6 months. After 6 months, the participants stopped taking the supplement but returned to be tested three months later, three months of supplemented period. The results, shown in the figure below, demonstrate that even three month after supplementation of PS stopped, the study participants still benefited from its earlier consumption, while results of those in the placebo group returned to baseline4:
Figure 1: Effects of PS supplementation on memory of elderly participants with memory complaints was tested over 6 months with 3 months follow-up. Ingestion of 100 mg/day PS was shown to be effective even 3 months after termination of the study (grey bars)4.
The body of scientific evidence has led the US FDA to accept in 2003 two qualified health claims for the ingredient:
- “Consumption of Phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the elderly”; and
- “Consumption of Phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of dementia in the elderly”
These claims come with a disclaimer that “very limited and preliminary scientific research suggests that phosphatidylserine may reduce the risk of cognitive dysfunction/dementia in the elderly. FDA concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim”.5
To this day, phosphatidylserine is the only ingredient with approved cognitive claims in the US.
The usage of ingredients with cognitive effect is not limited to the adult population. From young children whose parents are looking to support their physical and mental development, through students who need to be focused in their learning, adults in a demanding work environment and, of course, elderly who may worry of age-related cognitive decline, many are looking for cognitive support. Some even look for cognitive support to their aging pets. Benefits of PS to various populations, including the pet population, have all been demonstrated in clinical studies.
Many people today prefer to take their nootropics not through classic supplements such as capsules or softgels, but rather through “regular” food consumption. Take, for example, the rise of the gummy delivery system. While these solutions do not fall under “standard food” category, but rather a different segment of supplements, the number of solutions available in gummy format, and the shelf space accommodating these products, is sharply increasing, as people move away from traditional supplements delivery formats. Moreover, traditional food companies are also increasingly looking to add functionality to their products, including the addition of nootropics. Thus, the trend of foods with cognitive functionality is becoming ever more significant.
Sharp●PS is a high-quality phosphatidylserine that is clinically proven to have a cognitive effect. Sharp●PS is regulated, for food and for supplement use, throughout the world. For example, Sharp●PS is generally recognized as safe, or GRAS6,7, making it a perfect partner for global companies seeking to add a cognitive position to their food products. The ingredient is available from various sources soy, sunflower (Sharp●PS Green, a “soy-free alternative) and fish (Sharp●PS Gold, a version conjugated to DHA) and grades (powder, fine powder and patented dispersion for softgels) to fulfill any need.
Sharp●PS is particularly suitable for use in food, including dairy products and breakfast cereals. One characteristic of PS making it suitable for foods is the lack of organoleptic issues (taste, smell or mouth feel). Another interesting characteristic of PS is that it is an amphipathic molecule, meaning it has both water soluble and oil soluble parts. This makes PS especially useful in foods which are water and oil emulsions such as dairy products or chocolates.
To conclude, Sharp●PS is a well-studied nootropic that can have benefits for people of every age (excluding infants), in any delivery format. Sharp●PS is the perfect partner for food and supplement companies, local and global, and many companies around the world already use it.
1 UN. (ed United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) (2002).
2 Hamm, M. Nutritional-scientific statement on the change of nutritive provision with phosphatidylserine. (2002).
3 Svennerholm, L. Distribution and fatty acid composition of phosphoglycerides in normal human brain. J Lipid Res 9, 570-579 (1968).
4 Kato-Kataoka, A. et al. Soybean-derived phosphatidylserine improves memory function of the elderly Japanese subjects with memory complaints.
J Clin Biochem Nutr 47, 246-255, doi:10.3164/jcbn.10-62 (2010).
5 FDA. Phosphatidylserine and Cognitive Dysfunction and Dementia (Qualified Health Claim: Final Decision
6 FDA. GRN No. 223: GRAS notice for phosphatidylserine, http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/fcn/fcnDetailNavigation.cfm?rpt=grasListing&id=223 (2007).
7 FDA. (2015).