You may have heard the buzz surrounding L-serine and ALS recently. This is due to research findings that are uncovering potential benefits of L-serine in supporting the health of ALS patients. While research is ongoing, this could be an important discovery for those with neurodegenerative disorders!
What Is L-Serine?
Serine is a nonessential (meaning the body synthesizes it) amino acid that exists in two forms, or isomers: L-serine and D-serine. L-serine is synthesized from other amino acids, particularly glycine, or other protein metabolites. It is converted to D-serine in the glial cells, which support the nervous system. Since D-serine is not involved in the synthesis of mammalian proteins and is not classified as a “Generally Regarded as Safe” (GRAS) compound by the FDA, you may be less familiar with it and will not find it in supplement form. L-serine is a GRAS compound, so you may have heard more about it.
Despite being discovered about 150 years ago, research has been limited as far as getting a complete understanding of the effects of a shortage or excess in the body. Some of its functions, though, have been identified. Serine plays important roles in the body, such as the synthesis of protein, fatty acid, DNA and RNA, brain and nervous system function, cellular proliferation, antibody production, muscle growth and metabolism.
Serine also works to the benefit of other chemicals in the body as a precursor to the production of certain amino acids, other cell building blocks and lipids. For instance, the formation of glycine from D-serine is a critical reaction, as it has important functions in the central nervous system. As another example, L-serine and a glyercol lipid molecule form phosphatidylserine, an important compound found in neural tissue that is involved in nerve cell repair and the structural integrity of nerve cells.
As you can see, adequate levels of serine are crucial for the entire nervous system. As outlined in the review article, “L-Serine in disease and development,” Disorders of serine biosynthesis have been reported in human disease. “These patients were severely affected with neurological symptoms, and once again illustrate the importance of the serine biosynthesis pathway for brain development and function.” (Source)
So, let’s look into the possible neuroprotective mechanisms of L-serine.
Research into L-Serine
Due to significant findings, particularly in the last year, the FDA is currently conducting clinical trials in the United States to evaluate the safety and efficacy of L-serine for patients with ALS.
A phase I clinical trial (randomized, double-blind) was performed for six months on the effects of oral L-serine in patients with ALS. Though a small study, it did find that “L-serine appears to be generally safe for patients with ALS.” (Source)
The May 2016 research article notes that “L-serine is currently prescribed, in combination with glycine, for the treatment of two different genetic neurological diseases that result in L-serine deficiency, 3-phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase deficiency and 3-phosphoserine phosphatase deficiency, and is under study as a possible treatment for hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy type 1. Oral L-serine supplementation reduces production of neurotoxic deoxysphingolipids in mice and humans with hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy type 1.”
Phase II of this trial is underway.
In another study (published in January 2016), researchers at the Institute for EthnoMedicine and the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank concluded, “â¦ that chronic exposure to BMAA (the non-protein amino acid and neurotoxin: ?-N-methylamino-l-alanine) can trigger neurodegenerative illness and that adding L-serine to the diet can reduce the risk of disease.” (Source)
Here is the abbreviated abstract:
“Neurofibrillary tangles (NFT) and ?-amyloid plaques are the neurological hallmarks of both Alzheimer’s disease and an unusual paralytic illness suffered by Chamorro villagers on the Pacific island of Guam. Many Chamorros with the disease suffer dementia, and in some villages one-quarter of the adults perished from the disease. Like Alzheimer’s, the causal factors of Guamanian amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/parkinsonism dementia complex (ALS/PDC) are poorly understood. In replicated experiments, we found that chronic dietary exposure to a cyanobacterial toxin present in the traditional Chamorro diet, BMAA, triggers the formation of both NFT and ?-amyloid deposits similar in structure and density to those found in brain tissues of Chamorros who died with ALS/PDC. Vervets (Chlorocebus sabaeus) fed for 140 days with BMAA-dosed fruit developed NFT and sparse ?-amyloid deposits in the brain. Co-administration of the dietary amino acid l-serine with l-BMAA significantly reduced the density of NFT. These findings indicate that while chronic exposure to the environmental toxin BMAA can trigger neurodegeneration in vulnerable individuals, increasing the amount of l-serine in the diet can reduce the risk.”
Read the details of this study here.
The referenced Chamorro people were exposed to BMAA largely because of a diet based on cycad seeds. The neurotoxin accumulates in theÂ seeds, which are commonly used to prepare dumpling and tortilla flour, and to thicken stews and soups. Through the food chain, any animals that consumed these seeds accumulated BMAA in their tissues, so it is passed on to humans who eat these meats. BMAAÂ is also present in some marine ecosystems, including microalgae.
This 2016 studyÂ concluded: “(i) BMAA has been identified in post-mortem brain tissue from ALS/PDC patients from Guam who consume a BMAA-rich diet but not in control patients who have not been exposed to the traditional Chamorro diet, (ii) vervets fed BMAA over 140 days developed NFT and ?-amyloid deposits, and (iii) BMAA was isolated and identified in BMAA-fed vervets that had NFT and ?-amyloid deposits in their brains. This study indicates that chronic exposure to BMAA can trigger neurodegenerative illness and that adding L-serine to the diet can reduce the risk of disease.”
Finally, in his Journal of Clinical Investigation article titled “The debut of a rational treatment for an inherited neuropathy?” Steven S. Scherer reports that “oral L-serine reverses the accumulation of deoxysphingolipids in humans with hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1 (HSAN1) and in a transgenic mouse model. As oral l-serine reduces the severity of neuropathy in the mouse model of HSAN1, these data suggest a rational candidate therapy for this devastating condition.” (Source)
What Are Good Sources of Serine?
It’s really no surprise to me that nutrition could be a source of health support, in this case, for neurodegenerative disorders. And considering that there are no medications available to stop or reverse their damage, try getting essential nutrients to promote quality of life.
Serine is found in natural foods and supplements. The chart below shows the foods with the highest concentrations of serine. You’ll find that most are high-protein options; mainly dairy and meat, including certain cuts of pork, beef, elk, veal, bison, lamb, rabbit, deer, chicken, turkey, duck and goose.
Food Sources of L-Serine
If you do not get enough L-serine from the foods you eat, you may consider taking natural health supplements. Here are two of our popular products:
Pure L-Serine by Montiff Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â L-Serine by Douglas Laboratories
Have you read about recent research results on L-serine? If so, share your thoughts in the comments section below!
You say “You’ll find that most are high-protein options; mainly dairy and meat, including certain cuts of pork, beef, elk, veal, bison, lamb, rabbit, deer, chicken, turkey, duck and goose.”
Well, with the exception of turkey, no meat is mentioned in the chart which follows.
The problem with meat and treating HSAN-1 is that animal proteins found in meat also have higher levels of Alanine which the body uses to produce a neurotoxin. So if you want to increase your Serine levels meat is not a good choice.
Do you have a citation for that claim?
BMAA is a derivative of alanine but the only sources I could find indicate BMAA is produced by blue green algae and enters our bodies through direct or indirect ingestion of same.
Is there some other neurotoxin you’re referring to?
Brian, please refer to studies about HSAN-1. It is a miss formed enzyme that should only react with L-Serine but also reacts with Alanine. If you don’t have enough Serine in your system it make the neurotoxin from Alanine. Your body doesn’t seem to adjust the ratio without reducing Alanine intake and increasing Serine. Otherwise if you eat meat which has a higher alanine ratio you need to supplement with Serine
Just saw a great movie called “Toxic Puzzel” about this discovery. It seems like anyone concerned about Alzheimer’s should consider taking L-serine!?!!?!
Just wondering if it would help frontotemporal lobe dementia?
Hi Cindy! Great question! For that specific issue, it would be best to consult your health care provider.
Thanks for reading, and best wishes on your health journey!
Wouldn’t hurt to try. Your doc probably won’t recommend it because not “proven”, but no harm in using it.
I was just diagnosed with HSAN Type 1 . A clinical trial just ended in Mass showing these findings for L-Serine. I was diagnosed too late to participate in the trial but I a, aware they found L-Serine did help. However, I believe it was necessary to take a very large dose, much more than the recommendation on the label. Do you know any more about the dosage needed to get relief? I’d appreciate knowing it. Thank you!
I’m just a guy but They did a study on some people in Okinawa that took naturally as much as 8 g a day of L-serine.
Further articles I went on to read say that the body tolerates doses of up to 30 g very well.
Obviously please consult your physician I’m just a guy … ?
Write to the Deater foundation for a copy of the research. I take 14 gm per day and don’t eat meat in order to reduce Alanine intake. A full dosage can go up to 30 gm.
I started taking a full teaspoon a day of l-serine powder 4 y ears ago. It has had a definite positive impact on my memory and gross motor skills. I am 75 and was getting forgetful when I started taking it. Those problems have virtually disappeared. Not my opinion, but my wife’s. Kudos to Paul Cox, the ethnobotanist who discovered this problem in Guam, and the BMAA /L-Serine interface.
Which L-serine powder do you take? Thanks in advance.
Dear Bill, I would appreciate your mentioning your source for L-Serine and the dose you are taking. Thank you!
please send your source and dose of L-serine.
thank you, alan
In the Feb., 2019 Fortune magazine there is a long interview of Cox”s work.
Was diagnosed with Apha Gal ( allergic reaction to mammal protein) two years ago; would L serine be safe?
It would be best to discuss your specific health condition with your health care provider. Supplements are great to support various health issues, but your unique needs are best confirmed with a doctor. Good luck on your natural health journey!
Is it true that in the small island of Okinawa there’s a village called, is it true that in the small island of Okinawa there’s a village called Kamari where the percentage of people over the age of 80 is high and that these people live healthily into their late years. Test done on their diet show that they consume on average of 8 g, that’s grams not milligrams, of L serine per day.
What is an unhealthy dose, I read that doses of up to 30g are well tolerated.
This is fascinating information, I’m introducing it into my smoothies daily this is the end of my first week. I just turned 50 and I’ve notice that my thinking isn’t as clear as it was… I’m hoping to see an improvement. To be honest I think it’s helping already but I don’t want to be too excited just yet.
To be clear I’m adding 8g per day to my diet orally from a granulated Pure L-serine source.
I’ll let you know in 2070 I’ll be 101ish.. 😉
Fortune magazine 2/19 issue on Paul Cox is about Lserine
@Silver Grandma: I think what you are referring to is ?-N-methylamino-L-alanine – which is just the fully spelled out name of BMAA – and the meat it was fouind in was shark meat, probably because of what it eats where it was sampled, which is probably something that ultimately derives nutrition from cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae.
In the Fortune magazine article it is mentioned that BMAA was heavily concentrated in the now-extinct native Guam bat, also known as the “flying fox”, which was consumed by the Chamarro people of Guam as a delicacy.
The older generation, in the years after World War II, had 100 times the incidence of neurodegenative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, or rather something that mimicked it. At first they traced BMAA to the seeds of the cycad tree, but later realized the amount being consumed wasn’t enough and it was the concentration of the toxin(s) by the bats that did it.
Diseases like Alzheimer’s seem to be caused by misfolded proteins, and the misfolded proteins are caused, in this case, by BMAA substituting for some amino acid. At first Paul Cox thought it was glutamate but later discovered through help from other researchers that it was L-serine that was being substituted for.
They later discovered something more: that L-serine was a key ingredient of something that got rid of misfolded proteins.
The idea of megadoses of L-serine is either that this prevents BMAA or something from substituting for L-serine, or it increases the amount of protective substance the body makes.
Effiiciency declines with age, and also it takes time to kill alot of nerve cells so the diseases take time to develop.
L-serine is not an essential amino acid, which means that there must be some other nutrient or combination of nutrients that could be taken instead and get the same result.
Read the info on HSAN-1.
Fortune Feb 2019 just came out with a large article citing the BMAA is getting into the food chain via crabs, shrimp and other marine life that feeds on the blue-green algae. BMAA replaces L-serine (this causes the mal-folding). Paul Cox said, “There’s lots of L-serine in bacon”.
pertaining to l-serine, any findings or connection with other neuro-degenerative diseases such as huntington’s? my spouse recently was diagnosed and was wondering whether the l-serine could help.
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