The Brain and Memory Benefits of Pregnenolone

Author: Sheena H
Reviewed by Michael Hua, Pharm D

Dealing with brain fog or memory issues? If so, you are definitely not alone. Ask anyone about what they notice as they have gotten older, and the difficulties with remembering things is a topic bound to come up.

Memory loss is a huge concern for older adults. Some studies suggest that about 40 percent of people over the age of 65 have memory impairment associated with age. This telltale sign of getting older can have a lot of root causes, including hormonal changes and the loss of one hormone in particular in the brain: pregnenolone.

Pregnenolone is a precursor hormone, and it is found in exceptionally high concentrations in the brain. Therefore, research indicates this hormone—or declining levels of it—may play a role in lacking memory. Take a closer look at pregnenolone, how it works, and why it may be good for memory and your brain below.

Pregnenolone is a steroidal hormone that is produced by the body in the brain, adrenal glands, and gonads. This important hormone is a precursor for other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. In fact, pregnenolone is sometimes referred to as the "mother hormone" because, without it, other important sex hormones would not exist. The fact that pregnenolone is a precursor hormone makes it a valuable supplement for people dealing with hormonal imbalances due to menopause or other issues.

As humans age, pregnenolone levels naturally decline. By the time most people reach the age of 75, they have 60 percent less pregnenolone in the body. Pregnenolone is commonly taken to combat memory impairment that can come along with age. The hormone is available in supplement form derived from certain cholesterols found in plants and animals.

Even though research into supplementing with pregnenolone is limited, people often take pregnenolone supplements for:

  • Combatting fatigue or boosting energy levels

  • Memory issues

  • Deterring symptoms that come along with menopause

  • Deterring symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

  • Soothing symptoms associated with endometriosis

  • Skin conditions like psoriasis and scleroderma

There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims about the pregnenolone hormone helping with general aging, certain forms of cancer, and even obesity. Research into the full benefits of supplementing is ongoing, but some early indicators do show the supplement has promising properties to offer for a lot of reasons.

Benefits of Pregnenolone for the Brain and Memory

The interesting thing about pregnenolone is the fact that it is in the highest concentrations in the brain. It also is thought to enhance all mental functions. Therefore, pregnenolone is a must to keep the brain functioning at its peak. Therefore, this hormone is commonly targeted for research purposes due to the fact that it likely plays a role in cognitive decline related to aging.

There are a few mechanisms of action that make pregnenolone supplementation potentially valuable for the brain and memory. The hormone seems to reinforce neurotransmitter systems that can break down and decline with age. It stimulates acetylcholine release, which may facilitate processes associated with memory.

In addition, some research indicates that pregnenolone is important to repair the myelin sheath, which is a fatty layer that protects nerves in the neural system. Pregnenolone may also offer some protection from the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause neural damage at high levels. These initial proposals are not well documented, but if they hold true, this could mean pregnenolone supplements or treatment could be valuable for numerous illnesses and diseases.

There are numerous anecdotal reports of memory enhancement among people that take pregnenolone supplements. However, research into the memory-enhancing effects of pregnenolone is limited.

In animal studies, mice that were given pregnenolone experienced memory enhancement. Several reviews have pointed out that preliminary data suggests pregnenolone could influence cognitive functions, especially in elderly individuals who are dealing with cognitive decline. This is probable because individuals with cognitive decline due to Alzheimer's have been shown to have lower levels of pregnenolone in the prefrontal cortex.

Pregnenolone may even be beneficial for people who are dealing with depression. In a study published in 2012, rats provided with pregnenolone seemed to recover from "depressive-like" behaviors. Researchers noted that pregnenolone may target certain abnormalities in brain cells that could be related to depression.

Pregnenolone supplements may be something to consider if you consistently deal with brain fog and difficulties with concentration. This is especially true for people who may be dealing with these issues due to menopause or aging. Likewise, the supplement may be something to try if you are struggling with fatigue, low energy levels, and even depression.

Who Should Avoid Pregnenolone?

Since pregnenolone is a precursor hormone, individuals with a history or risk of breast, uterine, or prostate cancer are not good candidates for pregnenolone replacement. Anyone sensitive to or at risk due to hormonal imbalances should also discuss the risks versus the benefits of taking pregnenolone.

For most people, it is a good idea to take pregnenolone in the morning and on an empty stomach. However, the dose can also be split up and taken twice a day; in the morning and before bed. The average person should take between 50 and 100mg daily. Patients that are sensitive to medications may do better with 25 to 50mg twice a day. Individuals dealing with chronic fatigue and inflammatory arthritis may be recommended to take a higher dose. To get specific advice for your situation, it is a good idea to discuss the proper dosage levels with your doctor or pharmacist.

The side effects of pregnenolone are not well-studied. However, to date, supplementing with pregnenolone is not known to cause any major side effects. Minor side effects are possible and may affect as much as one percent of people who take the supplements. Some of the most common pregnenolone side effects include:

  • Headaches

  • Heartburn

  • Mild bloating and/or nausea

  • Sedation

  • A mild sense of agitation

  • Menstrual irregularities in women

Pregnenolone may partially convert to DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is an adrenal hormone. In women, this could theoretically cause a few other side effects due to the hormonal change, such as acne or hair loss

In the event that side effects do occur, discontinue the pregnenolone supplements until the symptoms go away. In some cases, reducing the dosage level by half will alleviate any undesirable side effects.

Even though pregnenolone is in its earliest stages of research, what we know about how this precursor hormone works in the brain offers promising insight. The supplement may be ideal for people who are dealing with general brain fog and memory loss, especially those who are getting older.

While you can purchase pregnenolone supplements over the counter just about anywhere, it is important to only trust a reputable brand. Talk to one of our team members at Harbor Compounding Pharmacy for help finding quality-made pregnenolone supplements.

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