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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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Pregnenolone

What is pregnenolone? Why do we need it?

Pregnenolone is a type of hormone found in the body and produced by the adrenal gland. Although it is present in the bloodstream, larger concentrations of pregnenolone are usually found in nervous tissue.

The exact functions of pregnenolone are unclear, but scientists believe it serves as a precursor to the formation of other hormones, such as DHEA and progesterone. In that role, it is a vital substance, and is essential for several metabolic processes to occur.

Evidence suggests that pregnenolone may help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve the quality of a person's sleep. One study of young, health men found that a daily doe of pregnenolone improved sleep quality. A larger study of airline pilots subjected to stress found that twice-daily supplements of pregnenolone improved performance without causing any adverse side-effects. Animal studies have shown that pregnenolone, used in conjuction with anti-inflammatory drugs and immune-modulating substances, could improve the functioning of damaged spinal nerves. This type of study has yet to be conducted in humans, however. Other studies have shown that pregnenolone may be beneficial in treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.

How much pregnenolone should I take?

As a supplement, pregnenolone is usually sold in doses ranging between 10 and 30 milligrams. Since it is not considered an essential nutrient, deficiency levels and recommended intake levels have yet to be established.

What forms of pregnenolone are available?

Pregnenolone is available as a dietary supplement, usually part of a larger supplement that contains various ingredients. It is available most often in capsule form.

What can happen if I take too much pregnenolone? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because pregnenolone works with certain receptors in the central nervous system, supplements taken in large amounts may cause health problems in people with a history of seizures. Pregnenolone supplementation can also increase levels of progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone in the body, which could theoretically cause disturbances in a person's endocrine system. As such, it should be taken only under the advisement of a licensed health care provider.

As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions associated with pregnenolone. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care practitioner before taking pregnenolone or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Akwa Y, Young J, Kabbadj K, et al. Neurosteroids: biosynthesis, metabolism and function of pregnenolone and dehydroepiandrosterone in the brain. J Steroid Biochem Molec Biol 1991;40(1-3):71-81.
  • Flood JF, Morley JE, Roberts E. Pregnenolone sulfate enhances post-training memory processes when injected in very low doses into limbic system structures: the amygdala is by far the most sensitive. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1995;92:10806-10.
  • George MS, Guidotti A, Rubinow D, et al. CSF neuroactive steroids in affective disorders: pregnenolone, progesterone and DBI. Biol Psychiatry 1994;35:775-80.
  • Guth L, Zhang Z, Roberts E. Key role for pregnenolone in combination therapy that promotes recovery after spinal cord injury. Proc Natl Acad Sci 1994;91:12308-12.
  • Isaacson RL, Varner JA, Baars JM, de Wied D. The effects of pregnenolone sulfate and ethylestrenol on retention of a passive avoidance task. Brain Res 1995;689:79-84.

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