Also known as 3-alpha-hydroxy-5-beta-pregned-20-one, pregnenolone is made in the body from cholesterol. Progesterone is a precursor to other steroid hormones. Some refer to DHEA as the "mother" hormone because it can be converted to estrogen or testosterone. Pregnenolone is like the mother of DHEA, as well as progesterone. Due to its role in producing other hormones, age-related decline in pregnenolone can lead to many problems, including memory loss, skin loosening and joint pains. Pregnenolone can also be made in a laboratory from the wild yam. Diosgenin is the chemical in the wild yam that can be converted into pregnenolone. However, the human body lacks the enzymes to make this conversion.
Eating food containing cholesterol such as meat, eggs, poultry, butter and/or dairy causes the cholesterol to be absorbed during digestion. The liver can also be an origin of pregnenolone because it produces cholesterol on its own.
Floating in small bunches inside the cell, cholesterol waits until the body has a need for the production of pregnenolone. When signaled, cholesterol is sent into the mitochondria, the chemical factories where carbohydrates, fats and proteins are turned into energy.
Arriving in the mitochondria, cholesterol is converted into pregnenolone by the removal of a few side chains of the chemical. The pregnenolone then leaves the mitochondria, which signals a ready state to produce more. In theory, taking supplemental pregnenolone does not suppress endogenous production of the hormone because it is a self-signaling process.
Converted by different enzymes in the cytoplasm of the adrenal glands, liver, skin or genitals, pregnenolone becomes either DHEA or progesterone. From there, these hormones can further be converted into cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen, testosterone and/or other essential hormones.