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Is Pregnenolone Supplement Safe?

by
author image Janet Renee, MS, RD
Janet Renee is a clinical dietitian with a special interest in weight management, sports dietetics, medical nutrition therapy and diet trends. She earned her Master of Science in nutrition from the University of Chicago and has contributed to health and wellness magazines, including Prevention, Self, Shape and Cooking Light.
Is Pregnenolone Supplement Safe?
Sex hormones are responsible for male and female characteristics. Photo Credit Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Pregnenolone is a parent steroid hormone. It is needed to make the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, as well as the male sex hormone testosterone. Pregnenolone supplements are primarily marketed for memory, energy and stress support. There is no standard dose and clinical data on long-term use is lacking. Consult your doctor before taking pregnenolone.

Cancer Cell Stimulation

Cancer cells divide abnormally and have the capacity to invade other cells and tissues. Cancer cells are able to proliferate because they have the ability to avoid apoptosis -- programmed cell death, which is a normal cellular process. You should not take pregnenolone supplements if you have a history of or are at risk for cancer. Pregnenolone supplements have the capacity to stimulate hormone-responsive cancers. It is clinically shown to stimulate prostate cancer cell growth, according to a study published in the December 2000 issue of "The Journal of Steroid and Biochemical Molecular Biology."

HRT Associated Risks

Because pregnenolone is a master hormone and a precursor to estrogen and progesterone, it may carry the same risk as traditional hormone replacement therapy. Hormone replacement therapy replaces estrogen and or progesterone most commonly to relieve symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes. Hormone replacement therapy increases your risk for breast cancer, heart disease and stroke, according to MedlinePlus. Though there are no studies examining whether pregnenolone carries the same risks, it is a theoretical possibility.

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Side Effects

All supplements have the capacity to cause side effects. Because your body uses pregnenolone to make steroid hormones, side effects include female facial hair growth, over-stimulation, irritability, aggression and insomnia. If these side effects become bothersome, you may need to decrease your dosage for them to resolve. Consult your doctor if you experience bothersome side effects while supplementing pregnenolone.

Precautions

You should not use pregnenolone supplements long-term without the permission of your doctor since long-term studies on the effects are lacking. All supplements have the capacity to interact with your medications. Pregnenolone has no known drug interactions, but that does not mean none exist. Theoretically, pregnenolone may interact with, or have an additive effect to, hormone replacement medications. Talk to your doctor if you are taking are currently prescribed medication. Consult your doctor if you are pregnant or nursing.

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References

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