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Capsules | SUPPLEMENTS

Fat compound may slow memory loss

August 23, 2004|Elena Conis

Phosphatidylserine, one of the building blocks of cell membranes, is a type of fat that keeps cells flexible and helps transport neurotransmitters in the brain. The brain's levels of the compound typically decrease with age, giving rise to the idea that phosphatidylserine, or PS, supplements can reverse age-related memory failure.

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Uses: PS is taken to improve memory and brain function in healthy people and those with Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. The supplement is also sometimes used to combat depression and manage stress.

Dose: Usually 100 milligrams three times a day, taken before meals with a full glass of water.

Precautions: PS may cause nausea and indigestion, as well as mild insomnia in new users. The supplement is generally considered safe when made from plant sources. Supplements of cow-derived PS have been largely discontinued due to concerns that they might transmit bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Research: Several well-designed studies have suggested that PS may help slow or reverse memory loss and other types of cognitive impairment in people with Alzheimer's or age-associated dementia -- although improvements may be very small. Research does not support the claim that PS can boost brain function in healthy people. Studies on depression and stress have produced mixed results. Much of the research on PS was conducted with cattle-derived supplements; it is unclear whether soy-derived supplements produce similar results.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your healthcare provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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