In today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m talking about pregnenolone, the “master hormone.” Most of the hormones we talk about, like testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol, all have pregnenolone as their precursor hormone. What can happen when pregnenolone goes too low? Can taking pregnenolone solve any problems? Is menopause actually a pregnenolone deficiency?
Let’s find out….
Referring to the “precursor hormone” pregnenolone, AJ requested:
I want to know more about this!
Mark – please do a post about this.
How about a Dear Mark answer?
Let’s get this out of the way: For menopause, I’m not sure if pregnenolone is the solution, or if low pregnenolone is even a problem. A 1992 study examined the basal hormone levels of women of varying ages, including reproductive, premenopausal, and postmenopausal. As age increased, levels of all hormones dropped—except for pregnenolone. They had plenty of precursor hormone. They just weren’t converting.
Another study seems to confirm. They compared hormone levels of postmenopausal women, women who’d had their ovaries removed, and a control group. Only the group without ovaries had low pregnenolone levels (cholesterol conversion to pregnenolone occurs in the ovaries). The other two groups, including the postmenopausal women, had normal levels.
That’s not to say pregnenolone isn’t useful. It is the precursor to the various steroid hormones, so if for some reason you’re low in pregnenolone, you’ll probably be low in testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone. Some of those symptoms could feel an awful lot like menopause.
Pregnenolone may help other conditions, for what it’s worth.
In patients with schizophrenia, pregnenolone supplementation improved functional capacity (but not cognitive function). Another study combined pregnenolone with L-theanine, the anti-anxiety compound found in green tea, finding that the combination reduced anxiety and other negative symptoms in schizophrenia patients. It can also help recent-onset schizophrenia patients.
Pregnenolone regulates the connections between your amygdala—the emotional center of the brain—and the rest of your brain. If pregnenolone is too low, the connectivity goes wild, triggering fear and anxiety; giving pregnenolone reduces this connectivity and quells the anxiety. If only as a basic emotional regulator, pregnenolone appears useful.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.