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PREGNENOLONE, A FRUIT OF CHOLESTEROL
Mother of Progesterone & D.H.E.A.
The following information comes from Dr. Ray Peat, who has done pioneering research on the anti-aging steroids, pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone). I have included excerpts from his writings plus the results of interviews. Research references are provided when available, but in many cases, I could only describe the group of researchers who did the experiment. My purpose for this article is not to start a riot but to illustrate why I think its dangerous to artificially inhibit cholesterol formation in your body with drugs and synthetic foods.
Dr. Peat accidentally discovered the effects of pregnenolone when he took some vitamin E containing a residue of pregnenolone that was left over from an experiment in solubility. Peat had been suffering from a variety of complaints, including "inflammation of the arteries, dental abscesses, asthma, migraines, and colitis." When he took the vitamin E containing some pregnenolone in the vitamin E, he crawled out of his sick bed, took a pinch of pure pregnenolone and felt immediately better. All of his symptoms gradually disappeared and in ten weeks, his appearance changed. Many aging characteristics, such as sagging skin, "chicken neck," bags under the eyes, etc. receded.
These changes were dramatically reported in a passport photo, taken one year before pregnenolone and another one taken 10 weeks after pregnenolone therapy was initiated. I regret that the original photos are not available for inclusion here. When I saw this photo, presented in one of his newsletters, I fell off my chair, dashed to the phone and called Dr. Peat. The results of many interviews are summarized below.
Pregnenolone is a steroid precursor (starter material). It is made in the body from the bad-rap guy, cholesterol. Naturally, to get pregnenolone, we need adequate amounts of cholesterol plus other nutrients, including vitamin A, thyroid hormone and enzymes. If any of these are inadequate, you will have a less than desired supply of pregnenolone.
In a healthy person, the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone occurs inside the mitochondria, nicknamed the lungs of the cell because of their role in cell respiration. Once produced, pregnenolone leaves the mitochondria, so it cannot inhibit its own synthesis. In fact, both progesterone and pregnenolone stimulate their own synthesis so that if you take them, the bodys ability to synthesize them is not suppressed. Sometimes short-term therapy restores the bodys ability to produce adequate amounts, although Peat says that this is not as clearly established with pregnenolone as in the case of progesterone. On the other hand, synthetic progesterone has an inhibiting effect on in-vivo synthesis plus many other toxic side effects not observed with natural progesterone.
In the cytoplasm, enzymes convert pregnenolone into either progesterone or DHEA, depending on the tissue and the need. Peat calls pregnenolone, progesterone and DHEA "brain steroids" since the brain contains higher concentrations of them than other organs or the blood. Because the brain concentration decreases from its peak value at around age thirty to 5% of peak value at 90, the need for supplemental pregnenolone may increase as we age. In fact, the older and/or sicker you are, the more likely you are to feel an effect from pregnenolone.
Progesterone and DHEA are the precursors for more specialized steroid hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone. Taking progesterone will not increase the level of these hormones. In fact, progesterone opposes their toxic effects. Peat says that "the formation of these hormones is tightly regulated, so that taking the precursor of one will correct a deficiency . . . but will not create an excess." However in young men, taking excess progesterone can decrease testosterone production and lead to decreased libido, so pregnenolone is preferred over progesterone for young males. The inhibitory effect on testosterone has not been observed in older men, especially those who are ill.
Because pregnenolone converts to progesterone and DHEA, its effects will parallel those of the latter hormones. It is more beneficial to take pregnenolone for certain conditions and progesterone for others but, in general, there is an overlap in their effects.
Peat says that whereas progesterone is strong medicine, just like thyroid or insulin, pregnenolone is an anti-aging food supplement such as a vitamin. Because of this, pregnenolone does not act as dramatically in a crisis, such as a seizure, as does progesterone.
REPAIR OF ENZYMES: Pregnenolone apparently has the ability to repair enzyme activity. For example, in a Russian research study, adding pregnenolone to a mitochondrial suspension increased the enzyme activity. Which enzyme The enzyme which converts cholesterol into pregnenolone (one in the P-450 system). Other enzymes in the P-450 system vital to certain detoxification processes are also stabilized by pregnenolone.
Peat says, " steroids, including cholesterol, have an anti-toxic effect. The cytochrome P-450 family of enzymes is an important factor in our resistance to toxins. Moderate amounts of cortisol promote this system, but larger amounts degrade it. Pregnenolone doesnt affect the rate of synthesis of these enzymes, but it stabilizes them against the normal proteolytic enzymes, increasing their activity. I believe this stabilizing action is a general feature of these steroids "
MEMORY REPAIR: In a short article in The Sacramento Bee (Tuesday, March 3, 1992) I read that Pregnenolone may help restore impaired memory, according to neurobiologist Eugene Roberts of the City of Hope Medical Center in Los Angeles, and his colleague, biologist James F. Morely, of the St. Louis VA Medical Center. These researchers tested pregnenolone and other steroids on mice. They found that pregnenolone is several hundred times more potent than any other memory enhancer that has been tested before is. Their report, in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (March 1992), says that pregnenolone was used in the late 1940s to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and quite successfully, but fell into disuse when cortisone was discovered. But, Roberts adds, pregnenolone was never found to have adverse side effects whereas the toxic effects of cortisone are many and severe.
Peat reports that pregnenolone can be used to withdraw from cortisone therapy over a one month period without developing "Addisons" disease symptoms (from adrenal atrophy), because of its normalizing effects on the adrenal gland. In female patients, progesterone therapy may also be indicated.
Peat provided the following information on the effects of DHEA:
Peat ate some DHEA, not much, only several milligrams daily. He noted the following:
The preceding is from information that has been faxed around the industry for a number of years. We have no idea who to credit for the article. If you do, please let us know and we will gladly give credit where credit is due.
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Last modified: March 15, 2009