This post may include affiliate links. See our affiliate policy for more details.
Plasmalogen supplements are becoming increasingly discussed in medicine and natural health. Plasmalogens are anti-inflammatories and powerful antioxidants. They’re part of cell membranes and help maintain optimal brain function. Plasmalogens are part of neurotransmitter release, and they’re found in high concentrations in the brain and heart.
They’re made primarily in the liver. Our levels naturally decline at a dramatic pace after the age of 60, yet they’re still needed for cell function and communication.
Several studies show that people with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s are low in plasmalogens. People with pancreatic cancer, stroke, heart disease, and diabetes are also often deficient in plasmalogens.
The following are seven things to know about plasmalogens and also whether or not plasmalogen supplements currently exist.
1. What Are Plasmalogens?
A plasmalogen is a membrane component that plays a critical role in releasing neurotransmitters. Our brain and heart, as mentioned, have high concentrations of plasmalogens, but they’re made in the liver. Our bodies use them so that our nerve cells can function and communicate with one another.
There are antioxidant properties, and some plasmalogens contain oleic acid, a fatty acid in olive oil. Others contain DHA, which is an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish. These are anti-inflammatory and required for our brain to function optimally.
Plasmalogens aren’t trace nutrients. They’re a part of the brain and may make up as much as 20% of the brain’s weight. These are like a reservoir for holding fatty acids, including DHA and oleic acid. Plasmalogens are a structural component of lipoproteins, synaptic membranes, and myelin.
Our levels in the brain increase until we’re between 30 and 40 years old, and they then start to decline rapidly around 60 to 70 years old.
Our body makes plasmalogens in our cell peroxisomes, most of which are made in the liver. When our peroxisome function becomes impaired with age, so does our ability to make plasmalogens. Our plasmalogens also experience degradation from oxidative stress and inflammation.
As a phospholipid, plasmalogens are a type of molecule that essentially builds our cellular membranes.
2. The Function of Plasmalogens
Plasmalogens were identified over a hundred years ago. They are lipids, and even though they were identified long ago, we still don’t know everything about their biological function. The role is probably multifaceted.
People who cannot produce plasmalogens from birth often have a lifespan of less than a year, highlighting their importance.
Animal and model studies have shown that one of the features of a deficiency is stress intolerance. Our cells are more likely to die without plasmalogens.
3. The Link to Disease
Since plasmalogens have a structural and functional role in the body and brain, a deficiency causes changes in cell membranes. The body has to substitute other molecules in their place. That causes issues and abnormalities with cellular signaling and neurotransmission. The result can also be reduced antioxidant defenses. When our antioxidant defenses aren’t functioning as they should, it can create an ongoing cycle. Plasmalogens are further degraded by oxidative stress. Then the body is less and less able to fight inflammation, contributing to disease.
Based on current research, it’s believed that plasmalogen deficiency is associated with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive impairment. From what researchers are uncovering, it’s possible that the severity of dementia someone experiences is related to the severity of their deficiency of plasmalogens.
People with dementia have lower levels across all stages of the disease, and levels start to decrease years before someone experiences any clinical symptoms.
Researchers are starting to understand the role lipids play in cellular function and the regulation of biological processes. Plasmalogens are technically a subclass of a type of lipids called glycerophospholipids. Plasmalogens are associated with metabolic disorders, aging, and degenerative disorders, all of which involve chronic inflammatory processes.
Plasmalogens appear to make up a significant fraction of the total lipids in our bodies, and changes in their levels can change membrane properties. Then, that can affect the signaling pathways that make up our inflammatory cascade.
Plasmalogen therapy to replace these lipids is a successful strategy to help with symptoms of many inflammatory diseases.
Plasmalogen deficiency is also linked to an increased risk for:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Respiratory diseases
- Cardiac diseases
4. What Are Lipids?
When discussing plasmalogen supplements, it can be helpful to delve more into lipids. Lipids are a building block for the structure and function of our cells. Lipids can include fats and oils, which play a role in cell signaling, giving your body energy, synthesizing hormones, and protecting nerves. You can also have excess lipids, which may contribute to diseases.
Specific lipid functions include:
- They help your nervous system function by protecting your nerve cells and increasing the conduction of impulses.
- Lipids allow your body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, which include A, D, E, and K. You can then use them once you absorb them.
- Your body needs lipids to produce hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol. Hormones help control metabolism and the immune system, keep water and salt levels balanced, control inflammation, and regulate your stress response. Hormones also regulate your circadian rhythm.
5. Can You Raise Plasmalogens Through Diet?
There is some evidence that you might be able to raise your plasmalogen levels through your diet.
One dietary option that could raise levels of plasmalogens is eating big game cervid meat. Cervid meat refers to the meat of deer-like animals such as elk and stag. Although it’s likely hard to source, Caribou is also thought to be rich in plasmalogen content, as is moose.
Plasmalogens are also found in pork, beef, and chicken. Marine animals may have plasmalogens, including mussels, scallops, sea squirts, and krill.
The issue with getting enough plasmalogens from food is that you can’t get enough from a regular diet. You would have to eat enormous amounts, which is why there is a growing interest in plasmalogen supplements that offer concentrated amounts of these lipids.
6. Are There Plasmalogen Supplements Available?
Currently, there are some plasmalogen supplements available.
Dr. Dayan Goodenowe has done enormous research on plasmalogens and their role in human health and has created a supplement. He’s a neuroscientist, and while the supplement is expensive, it does tend to have the best reviews and reputation and is backed by the most evidence for its use.
According to claims, the supplement is 100 to 900 times the strength of other plasmalogen supplements. It’s also designed for maximum absorption in the human gut so that rather than being degraded during digestion, you get more of the plasmalogens into your system.
According to customer reviews, this supplement seems to help with focus, sleep, and energy and reduce brain fog. If you’re interested in a plasmalogen supplement, this is the gold standard.
Another option that’s less expensive than Dr. Goodenowe’s supplement is LABO nutrition. This is a scallop-derived supplement. According to the makers of this plasmalogen supplement, it’s naturally bound with DHA to help further support brain function.
Another option for plasmalogen supplements is an AKG supplement. AKG stands for alkygylcerols. These supplements have been shown in animal studies to increase endogenous plasmalogen levels.
AKG is a part of the glutamine amino acid. It’s used by cells during growth and healing from injuries, and it’s essential to help muscle tissue. People use AKG supplements to gain strength and muscle mass, but research shows they could help with aging and cognitive health. AKG is also thought to act as a precursor for arginine and nitric acid, potentially improving both levels and supporting healthy aging.
7. Final Thoughts On Plasmalogen Supplements
The concept of plasmalogen supplements is like to become more mainstream, and products will become increasingly viable as we learn more about these critical lipids. We’re already learning so much about how they affect aging and brain health, and it’s a compelling area of research to help unravel the mysteries of devastating conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease.
Olsen, Perez Carissa, Ph.D. “Clinical Matters: High-Plasmalogen Diets and Alzheimer’s.” Today’s Geriatric Medicine. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Bozelli, Carlos Jose Jr., et al. “Plasmalogens and Chronic Inflammatory Diseases.” Frontiers in Physiology, October 2021. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Scott, Dawn, et al. “Natural Sources of Plasmalogens.” Callaghan Innovation, November 10, 2016. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Cognitive Vitality. “Plasmalogen.” Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, May 14, 2019. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Paul, Sudip, et al. “Oral Supplementation of an Alkylglycerol Mix Comprising Different Alkyl Chains Effectively Modulates Multiple Endogenous Plasmalogen Species in Mice.” Metabolites, May 2021. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Senanayake, Vijitha and Goodenowe Dayan B. “Plasmalogen deficiency and neuropathology in Alzheimer’s disease: Causation or coincidence?” Alzheimer’s & Dementia Translational Research & Clinical Interventions, October 2019. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Pham, Huong Thu, et al. “Big game cervid meat as a potential good source of plasmalogens for functional foods.” Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, March 2021. Accessed September 14, 2022.
Bozelli, JC and Epand, RM. “Plasmalogen Replacement Therapy.” Med-Life Discoveries LP, January 5, 2022. Accessed September 14, 2022.