Pregnenolone is a steroid precursor whose primary function is to help the body to produce other hormones such as progesterone, estrogen, DHEA and testosterone. A person’s level of pregnenolone generally declines with age, and by the time we are 75, we have only 40% of the pregnenolone we had when we were 35.
A Wide Range of Beneficial Properties Pregnenolone – a hormone produced from cholesterol in our adrenal glands, liver, skin, testicles, ovaries, and brain – was the subject of intense interest in the 1940’s. Some of the earliest studies, performed by well-known researcher Hans Selye, found it to be helpful in reducing stress and fatigue. Additional studies were conducted throughout the decades, with positive results. Pregnenolone supplementation was found to benefit people who were under excessive stress. It also was reported to support joint and tissue function and to contribute to skin elasticity. Pregnenolone is believed to affect stress levels through its influence on the adrenal glands, which produce more steroid hormones when people are under stress. Pregnenolone may also affect brain chemistry in beneficial ways. It has been found to inhibit the GABA receptors in brain cells – which may result in increased mental alertness. It may also stimulate the NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors, which play an important role in regulating synapses, thus influencing learning and memory. Pregnenolone: The Unique Hormone Much of the current interest in pregnenolone is related to its role as “the grandmother of all steroid hormones.” Pregnenolone is the starting point from which all steroid hormones are manufactured in our bodies. As a “hormone balancer,” it has the capacity to increase the levels of steroid hormones that are deficient in our bodies and to reduce the levels of excess circulating hormones. Some scientists believe pregnenolone is converted into other hormones only as they are needed by our bodies. The conversion of pregnenolone follows different pathways, depending upon cellular requirements. Pregnenolone may be converted into DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which in turn can be changed into androgens (including testosterone), estrogens and other steroids; or, it may be converted into any or all of a chain of hormones including progesterone, corticosterone, and aldosterone. These characteristics make pregnenolone unique. Because cells may only convert pregnenolone into other hormones on an “as needed” basis, pregnenolone may correct imbalances in the levels of some hormones, without affecting others. This is a great advantage over steroid hormones like DHEA, which may create excess estrogen and testosterone. Pregnenolone is also distinctive because of the innumerable bodily activities it can influence. As a steroid hormone precursor, it is believed to be involved in every biochemical action exhibited by any steroid hormone. This means it may impact memory, mental alertness, stress responses, female reproductive cycles, the body’s natural defenses, and joint and tissue function. With such a wide spectrum of involvement, the potential uses of pregnenolone could be boundless.
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