There has been a lot of debate over whether or not “bio-identical” hormones, i.e., hormones identical to the human form, are superior to non-human forms dispensed by the drug industry.
The FDA is currently taking steps to clamp down on availability of bioidentical hormones and their claims of superiority, despite a groundswell of grassroot support for them. The argument has pitted anti-aging practitioners and the public, as well as the likes of Oprah and Suzanne Somers, against Big Pharma and the FDA, the two forces trying to squash the bioidentical hormone movement.
Regardless of what heavy-handed approach the FDA takes, we already have access to hormones identical to the original human form. It requires no prescription and yields downstream hormones that the human body recognizes as human.
That "bioidentical" hormone is pregnenolone.
Pregnenolone is the first biochemical step in the conversion of dietary cholesterol (yes-cholesterol!) to numerous other hormones. Pregnenolone is the source of the hormones that lie at the center of the bioidentical hormone controversy: estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone. We therefore already have our own over-the-counter, non-prescription form of bioidentical hormones.
Supplemental pregnenolone increases estrogens (mildly), progesterone, and testosterone. Prenenonlone supplementation simply provide more of the basic substrate for hormone production. The increase in hormones is usually modest, not as vigorous as direct hormone replacement like, say, testosterone or progesterone topical creams. But pregnenolone can be useful when small to moderate increases are desired, such as for reduction of Lp(a). A theoretical downside is that pregnenonlone can also convert to cortisol, the adrenal gland hormone that regulates fluid and blood pressure. However, I've not seen any measurable increase in cortisol with low doses of pregnenonlone and limited data suggest that it does not. Pregnenolone also converts to the other adrenal gland hormone, DHEA; I call DHEA "the hormone of assertiveness," since some people who take too much pregnenolone (or direct DHEA) acquire excessive assertiveness.
The key to pregnenolone supplementation is to proceed gradually and begin with a small dose, e.g., 5 mg every morning. Hormonal assessment is best conducted periodically to assess the effects and to determine whether a dose adjustment is in order.