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What is Serine?

By Douglas Bonderud
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Serine is a non-essential amino acid, which means that it is required for the human body to properly function, but does not need to come from an outside source. Instead, it is typically produced within the body from metabolites, such as glycine. Serine, also known as Ser, is a proteinogenic amino acid. This means it is one of the 22 amino acids that are part of the standard human genetic code. The word proteinogenic is derived from the Latin for 'protein-building.'

In 1865, this amino acid was first isolated from protein contained in silk. Silk has a large concentration of it, and the amino acid was named using the Latin word sericum, which means silk. By 1902, the the chemical structure of serine had been determined.

The main uses of serine in the human body are to assist in the function of the central nervous system (CNS), as well as with general brain operation. It is present in the myelin sheaths that cover the nerves located in the brain. Without sufficient serine, these sheaths become thin or disappear altogether, leading to an inability for the nerves to transmit messages to other parts of the body.

This amino acid also aids in the production of antibodies and immunoglobulin, both of which are essential for a healthy immune system. In addition, the presence of serine is required to create tryptophan, which in turn is used to make serotonin. Serotonin is used by the brain to regulate mood, and depression and anxiety are linked to to a lack of either serotonin or tryptophan in the body.

In order for the human body to produce this amino acid, folic acid and both vitamins B3 and B6 must be present. These compounds naturally occur in meat, peanuts, and dairy products, but a diet high in processed foods can lead to a deficiency. Supplements are available in powder and tablet forms, but are most commonly found as part of a combination supplement, such as a nuttritional sports drink.

While rare, it is possible for the human body to have a natural deficiency of this amino acid. It is an inherited condition which prevents the bio-synthesis of L-serine from occurring. The condition presents in children with symptoms such as psycho-motor retardation and seizures. Symptoms of this disorder manifest as a neurological condition, and many children are not tested for L-serine deficiency. A simple spinal fluid test is typically enough to determine if this disorder is the underlying cause of the symptoms.

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Discussion Comments

By goldensky — On Aug 01, 2011

I started using a supplement called Phosphatidyl serine also known as (PS) to help control my ADHD. I've been on it for over two weeks and it's been working just as well as my prescribed medication does.

Just one capsule controls my symptoms for five hours and starts working within twenty minutes flat. My prescription never performed that well.

I have to admit though, that I am a skeptic when it comes to herbal and supplemental medications, so I did keep my prescription close by the first few days. I really didn't expect it to work, but it did, like a charm.

By ladyjane — On Jul 31, 2011

@ellafarris - I agree with you that a cerebrospinal analysis should be conducted before they begin the diet.

I'm not saying the diet isn't worth it, I'm just concerned that such a drastic change in the child's diet could create new health problems or greatly emphasize her existing condition.

The Ketogenic diet as you probably know is a low carbohydrate high fat diet that has been proven to be effective for losing weight. And now studies have found that it is also effective at controlling seizures.

I hope that you'll have the opportunity to visit your granddaughter's physician before your daughter places her on the diet so you have the chance to express your concerns. Good luck to you and your loved ones.

By ellafarris — On Jul 30, 2011

You have no idea how much hope this article has brought me. My granddaughter was born with epilectic seizures. She is eighteen months old with developmental skills of only a six month old.

It breaks my heart that my little granddaughter does not walk or crawl like the other children her age. She does not talk yet or even look her mother in the eye when she talks to her.

I have done a little research on the serine pathway to the brain and I have found hope in all that I have discovered about defenciencies of the non-essential amino acids. Especially the neurotransmitter acids like L-serine, glycine and choline.

My daughter and her husband plan to start her on the Ketogenic Diet next month. I don't know much about it but I've been told that it is a positive procedure at controlling seizures.

I've suggested that they have a spinal fluid test done to determine if indeed she does have any amino acid deficiencies before they begin this new diet. What do you think?

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