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Question: Do either phosphatidylserine or phosphatidylcholine help with memory and cognition? How are these supplements different?
Answer: As discussed in the Phosphatidylserine article on our site, studies have shown it to be effective in treating symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of age-related mental decline. However, the phosphatidylserine used in these studies was derived from cow brain tissue, which, due to safety concerns, is now rarely sold.
Nearly all phosphatidylserine supplements on the market today use ingredients derived from soy (which is also the main source of phosphatidylcholine). This plant-derived form has a different fatty acid composition than phosphatidylserine from brain tissue and, unfortunately, studies using the plant-derived form have shown very modest or no benefit for cognitive function or age-related memory impairment (Kato-Kataoka, J Clin Biochem Nutr 2010; Jorissen, Nutr Neurosci 2001).
There is also not much evidence that phosphatidylcholine can improve memory or cognition. However, it does provide choline, which is a component of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Another chemical form of choline sold in supplements has shown some promise in improving memory and cognition as explained in the Choline Supplements Review (which includes our tests and comparisons of marketed supplements).