Is pregnenolone the superhormone for memory?

Some time ago, an advertisement for a food supplement fluttered across my desk. It's called pregnenolone and, according to the leaflet, it is supposed to significantly improve learning and memory skills. “The most powerful substance ever tested to improve memory"the provider promises. Let's take a look at what's behind it and what to make of it. Pregnenolone was discovered in the 1930s and used to be called the "mother hormone" of steroids. Chemically, pregnenolone is a precursor or prohormone of the steroid hormones. That is, it has no hormonal effect itself, but the organism can form steroid hormones from it, such as progesterone, a sex hormone, or DHEA, the most common steroid hormone in humans. The latter is often called the "fountain of youth hormone" in the lay press and is said to slow down the ageing processes. However, its physiological role in the organism is still unclear. The following is written about the effect of pregnenolone in the advertising text: "At the beginning of the Second World War, pregnenolone was tested on healthy volunteers to investigate their learning and memory abilities. A significant improvement in psychomotor performance was noted (Massachusetts University, USA). A few years later, a study with American Army pilots showed that pregnenolone reduced feelings of stress and fatigue and did so without considerable side effects (Pincus). In the 1990s, pregnenolone received special interest because it significantly improves learning and memory abilities. American biochemists found that intravenous administration of pregnenolone to several parts of the brain of old mice significantly increased their memory abilities (Roberts, Flood). At the same time, a French professor showed that pregnenolone levels in the nerve cells of mice decrease with age (Baulieu). As a result of pregnenolone injections, these old animals showed the same spatial memory abilities as those of young rodents (Baulieu; Le Moal)." So much for the prospectus. Sounds good, but is it true? In fact, it has been shown that pregnenolone increases the activity of the nerve cells and thus has a particularly positive effect on memory. However, all studies on this are quite old, the most recent being over ten years old. Currently, pregnenolone is being intensively studied as a remedy for schizophrenia, apparently even with success. A substance that has any effect on the body usually has side effects. There is nothing about this in the leaflet, so I did some research. What side effects can occur? On the German internet pages of the supplier, no side effects are indicated. On American sites, however, from where the remedy is imported and where it is already more widespread, we find a whole series of side effects:
  • Insomnia or even tiredness
  • Agitation, anger and fear
  • Acne
  • Headaches up to severe permanent headaches
  • Hair loss
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (even at low doses of 5 mg)
  • unknown effects on thyroid and other organs and tissues
Most of these side effects are understandable when you consider that the organism mainly converts the substance into various sex hormones. Don't mess around with hormones! Hormones are very effective tools of the organism. It uses them when it wants to cause long-term changes in several places at the same time. So far, 150 different hormones have been found in the human body, but it is estimated that there are more than 1000. Most of them have complex relationships with each other. If you turn one knob, many others change along with it, some upwards, others downwards. This is almost impossible to control, and even nature itself has its difficulties with it. Just think of the hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy or the menopause and the manifold, sometimes unpleasant side effects that occur. In my opinion, one should not mess around with hormone preparations. I would only intervene in the complex hormone balance of my body if it was medically necessary and under medical supervision. By the way: In the USA, where pregnenolone is freely available, a maximum dose of 5-10 mg per day is recommended. The German internet dealer whose advertisement I have, however, sells the hormone preparation in ten times higher concentrations, namely as 50 and 100 mg capsules! Conclusion: For good reason, hormone preparations such as DHEA (prasterone) are only available on prescription in Germany and are not permitted as food supplements. However, since pregnenolone is only a prohormone, there is obviously still a legal grey area here. Nevertheless, I consider such offers as one finds on the internet at present to be questionable from a health point of view.