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The most common age-dependent  neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s have become  urgent public health problems in many countries around the world. Two  nutrients, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and phosphatidylserine (PS), are both  thought to be important in the structure and function of the brain and may be  relevant to these issues.

Research indicates that an adequate intake  of DHA in the diet is associated with prevention of—and therapeutic effects  upon—the disorders. In the 1980s, one of the first uses of phospholipids and  DHA together for brain disorders was documented; a method of using 1-acyl  chains/2-DHA PS species, which was extracted from bovine cortex, as the first  cholinergic drug in Europe to alleviate and treat Alzheimer’s disease [1-3].  However, due to the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) crisis  that hit Europe in the 1990s, PS derived from bovine brains was perceived as  risky and less commercially feasible. The next generation of phospholipids  came in the form of transphosphatidylated soybean PS and egg yolk PS, used as  alternatives to brain cortex PS, beginning in the mid-1990s.

PS, an aminophospholipid, is widely  distributed among animals, plants and microorganisms. It is a component of  mammalian cell membranes and plays important roles in biological processes  such as apoptosis (cell death) and cell signaling. Approximately 30 g of PS  is found in the human body, and about half of this amount (13 g) is present  in brain tissue [4]. The fatty acid composition of endogenous PS depends on  its locale and function in the cell. The brain and eye are also highly  enriched with omega-3 fatty acids. It has been suggested that DHA is  maintained at certain levels in the retina despite reductions in dietary  omega-3 fatty acids, and a decrease in dietary DHA has been observed to lead  to a decrease in PS [5].

Marine phospholipids are a growing source  in the marketplace, probably most well-known from krill and fish roe and  naturally enriched with omega-3s. In addition, marine phospholipids have some  unique properties compared to crude or refined fish oils. Marine  phospholipids are more resistant to oxidation, provide better bioavailability  and the ability to form liposomes. This potentially makes them an attractive  choice as ingredients for dietary supplements as well as food fortification,  where oxidation and incorporation into the food matrix are important. They  may also play a unique role in the body. The omega-3s in phospholipid  products can be bound to various types of phospholipids, where each have a  different function. Marine omega-3 PS is defined as PS containing omega-3  long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LC-PUFAs) at the Sn-2 position of the  glycerol backbone. This makes them different from PS derived from vegetable  sources, which do not contain omega-3s.

As the major structural and functional  component of the central nervous system, DHA constitutes as much as 20 to 50  percent of the total fatty acid content of the adult human brain [6]. DHA and  eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) play an important role in brain function; both  are orthomolecules whose functional sites are exclusively cell membranes,  wherein they are structurally and functionally integrated via phospholipid  molecules [7]. So the connection between EPA, DHA and PS is quite important  in the nervous system.

Enzymecode Biotechnology Co. Ltd (ECB), in  cooperation with Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) member, ECA  HealthCare Inc. (ECA), launched a marine phospholipid product,DHA-PS, in 2017.  ECB’s goal was to launch an omega-3 product with higher absorption and  synergistic effects between PS and the individual molecules of omega-3 fatty  acids, beyond what could be provided by EPA and DHA by themselves, by  vegetable PS, or their physical mixtures. Now that the product is launched,  ECA HealthCare is conducting additional research into its effects.

DHA-PS was developed using enzyme  technology that can be used on multiple raw materials of marine origin. There  are versions containing krill oil that contain 8 percent DHA and 15 percent  EPA, as well as fish-derived oils containing 20 percent DHA and 10 percent  EPA. This new technology can potentially be combined with fish oil  concentrates to deliver even more EPA and DHA in PS form. ECA is also  continuing to work on new products containing the technology.


[1] Amaducci L. Phosphatidylserine in  the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: Results of a multicenter study. Psychopharmacol  Bulletin 1988; 24(1): 130-134.

[2] Crook TH et al. Effect of  phosphatidylserine in age-associated memory impairment. Neurology 1991;  41(5): 644-649.

[3] Crook T et al. Effect of  phosphatidylserine in Alzheimer’s disease. Psychopharmacol Bulletin 1992;  28(1): 61-66.

[4] Pepeu G, Pepeu MI, Amaducci L. A  review of phosphatidylserine pharmaceutical and clinical effects: Is  phosphatidylserine a drug for aging brain? Pharmacol Res 1996;  33(2): 73-80.

[5] Kotani S et al. Dietary  supplementation of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids improves cognitive  dysfunction. Neurosci Res 2006; 56(2): 159-164.

[6] Jorissen BL et al. Safety of soy  derived phosphatidylserine in elderly people. Nutritional  Neurosci 2002; 5(5): 337-343.

[7] Rapoport SI. Brain arachidonic and  docosahexaenoic acid cascades are selectively altered by drugs, diet and  diseases. Prostaglandings Leukot Essent Fatty Acid 2008;  79(3): 153-156.