Principal Proposed Uses
Pregnenolone is a substance made in your body. It is the raw material needed to make steroid hormones such as:
Steroid hormones affect a number of systems in your body. It can affect metabolism and inflammation and how well your immune system and kidneys work. It also affects sex characteristics - features that are considered male or female. Your steroid hormones can also affect how you manage illness or injury.
Hormones tend to decline with age. The general goal of pregnenolone supplements is to keep hormones at youthful levels. However, there is no indication that taking extra pregnenolone will increase the levels of any other hormones.
Steroid hormones are powerful. They can cause harm as well as benefit. Examples of long-term problems from extra steroid hormones include:
- Severe osteoporosis—from use of cortisone
- Increase the risk of cancer—from estrogen use
- Liver problems and heart stress—from anabolic steroids
There is very little known about what long-term use of pregnenolone might cause.
Pregnenolone is not a nutrient. It is a drug, just as estrogen, cortisone, and aldosterone are drugs. We recommend not using it until more is known about what it really does.
There is only one side effect of pregnenolone that has been documented via double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. For unknown reasons, regular use of pregnenolone may greatly decrease the sedative effect of drugs in the Valium family.4
Pregnenolone is not normally obtained from foods. Your body manufactures it from cholesterol. Supplemental pregnenolone is made synthetically in a lab from substances found in soybeans.
A typical recommended dosage of pregnenolone is 30 mg daily, but some studies have used as much as 700 mg.
If you browse the Internet or read health magazines, you'll find pregnenolone described as a treatment for an enormous list of health problems, including: Alzheimer's disease, menopausal symptoms, Parkinson's disease, osteoporosis, fatigue, stress, depression, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also supposed to help you lose weight, improve your brain power, and make you feel young again. However, like so many overhyped new supplements, there is little to no scientific evidence for any of these uses. Studies involving rats suggest that pregnenolone may enhance memory,2,3 but there is little evidence this translates to humans. In general, hormone replacements are of little use unless a hormone deficiency exists.5
Pregnenolone is a powerful hormone, not a nutrient we would naturally get in our food. You should approach this supplement with caution, as if it were a drug. For all intents and purposes, it is a drug. It would be best to consult your doctor before taking it. Pregnenolone is definitely not recommended for children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with liver or kidney disease.
As noted above, pregnenolone may decrease the effectiveness of sedatives in the Valium family (benzodiazepines). This means that if you are using benzodiazepine drugs for sleep or for anxiety, they may not work as well.
Interactions You Should Know About
If you are using:
- Drugs in the benzodiazepine family: Pregnenolone may decrease their effectiveness.
1. Havlíková H, Hill M, Hampl R, Stárka L. Sex- and age-related changes in epitestosterone in relation to pregnenolone sulfate and testosterone in normal subjects. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002;87(5):2225-2231.
2. 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 USA. 1995;92:10806-10810.
3. Flood JF, Morley JE, Roberts E. Memory-enhancing effects in male mice of pregnenolone and steroids metabolically derived from it. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1992;89:1567-1571.
4. Meieran SE, Reus VI, Webster R, et al. Chronic pregnenolone effects in normal humans: attenuation of benzodiazepine-induced sedation. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2004;29:486-500.
5. Morley JE. Scientific overview of hormone treatment used for rejuvenation. Fertil Steril. 2013;99(7):1807-1813.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board Last Updated: 4/6/2018