Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pregnenolone Supplementation and Memory

Pregnenolone is an adrenal hormone produced from cholesterol and is a precursor for the following steroid hormones: androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Because pregnenolone is the precursor (first in the making of) of these hormones, it has been suggested that boosting the body’s pregnenolone levels through supplementation will offer the same health benefits as taking the hormone supplements individually. There are a number of studies purporting that pregnenolone may offer some of the same benefits as DHEA and hormone replacement therapy (HRT).

Pregnenolone is thought to improve issues such as mental function, especially memory and attention, mood disorders, PMS, arthritis,and stress. It has been reported to help slow the symptoms of mental and physical decline that are a natural part of aging. Pregnenolone has also been used for the treatment of arthritis since the 1940's, when it was first discovered to be effective against joint swelling and inflammation.

Pregnenolone may help:
 Memory (most common use)
 Clarity of thinking,
 Mood disorders
 Sexual function
 Weight loss
 Hot flashes (Menopause)
 Premenstrual symptoms (PMS)

Since both DHEA and pregnenolone have similar effects, you should lower your dose of DHEA if you start pregnenolone and vice versa. Before you add one or the other, make sure you try them separately to see what kind of effect they may have. The amount of conversion of pregnenolone to other steroid hormones is not fully known and taking too much pregnenolone could theoretically upset your hormonal balance leading to unwanted side effects such as breast enlargement (estrogen effect or hair loss (testosterone effect) in men or facial hair in women (testosterone effect).

The dosage generally used for pregnenolone is 50 mg/day, while arthritis sufferers typically use up to 500 mg daily. Side effects include headaches, over-stimulation, insomnia, anxiety and irritability, especially with higher doses. There is a more dangerous side effect, especially at higher doses, heart palpitations. The American Cancer Society also reports that pregnenolone use may increase the risk of liver problems, breast and prostate cancer; although I am not aware of a study proving this, use with caution. A single daily dose in the morning is probably best, since pregnenolone is fat-soluble (absorbed with fat in the diet) and follows the (circadian) highs and lows of cortisol (highest in the morning).  


  1. I'm beginning to use pregnenolone in my practice to boost memory. It seems, unfortunately, that as one gets older it becomes less likely that pregnenolone will break up into all the hormones it is capable of becoming. Don't forget, it is a neurotransmitter as well. Good post.

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