07 July 2020
Sharp PS - a partner for the growing nootropic market
Looking to add a cognitive position to your product? Phosphatidylserine is clinically proven to support cognition
As we reach the third decade of the 21st century, it is increasingly evident that the population is aging (1). For people and societies alike, healthy, successful aging becomes an increasingly important issue. After the age of 50, many start to suffer from age-related cognitive decline also known as age-related memory impairment (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.
Supplementation with PS can have benefits for human cognition
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. 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 baseline (4):
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).
Approved cognition claim in the US
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.
Cognitive health is not just for the elderly
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 about 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.
Nootropics – moving to new delivery formats
Today, many people prefer to take their nootropics not through classic supplements such as capsules or soft gels, 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.
Add a cognitive position to your food product
Sharp PS is a high-quality phosphatidylserine that is clinically proven to have a cognitive effect. It is regulated, for food and for supplement use, throughout the world. For example, Sharp PS is generally recognised as safe, or GRAS (6,7), 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 including soy, sunflower (Sharp PS Green, a soy-free alternative) and fish (Sharp●PS Gold, a version conjugated to DHA) and different grades (powder, fine powder and patented dispersion for soft gels) to fulfil 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.
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.
(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 Letter http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm072999.htm (2003).
(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).