Policosanol, a new dietary supplement from Cuba, is an extract from sugar cane or beeswax. It has been studied extensively at medical facilities in Havana since 1994. Therefore, most of the published studies have been done on policosanol derived from sugar cane rather than beeswax. A purified mixture of chemicals collectively referred to as long-chain alcohols, policosanol has been found to lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of blood clots, enhance brain function and improve blood flow to extremities that have been impaired by hardened arteries. Taken in doses of 5 to 20 mg daily, it is inexpensive (less than a third of the cost of statins) and only rarely causes side effects. Research suggests that policosanol may have multiple mechanisms of action involving cholesterol synthesis and tissue utilization.
Policosanol is a group of active compounds composed of predominantly five higher primary aliphatic alcohols - tetracosanol, hexacosanol, octacosanol, triacontanol, and dotriacontanol. The aliphatic alcohols found in policosanol have been successfully purified from several sources, including sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L.) wax, beeswax (Apis mellifera), and rice bran wax. The ratio of aliphatic alcohols is similar in all three policosanol sources.
What the Research Says. While its mechanism of action is poorly understood, it appears to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver. At least five studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals have shown that policosanol causes a drop in LDL (bad) cholesterol - from 11 to 21% (higher doses resulted in bigger drops). In addition to lowering LDL, policosanol also has been found to have the added advantage of increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. One typical study done at Havana University in 1996 gave 2 mg of policosanol daily to a group of 12 patients with high cholesterol and persistent atherosclerosis. A control group of 11 patients were given a placebo. After 14 months, it was found that the patients receiving policosanol experienced an average drop of 14.8% in total cholesterol and a 15.6% drop in LDL cholesterol. In addition, five out of the 12 patients experienced distinct improvements in their atherosclerosis. In contrast, the control group was found to have a slight increase in both total and LDL cholesterol.
Policosanol appears to have potency comparable to statin drugs. For example, one study compared policosanol to a standard dose of simvastatin. Patients who took 5 mg daily of the policosanol for eight weeks had a 21.1% drop in LDL cholesterol compared to 26% in those who took simvastatin.
Considering the evidence, policosanol appears to be one of the most significant nutritional discoveries in years. It is effective, safe, inexpensive and available without a prescription. For these reasons, it has the potential to make a major impact on our ongoing epidemic of cardiovascular disease. If you are suffering from high cholesterol or heart disease, perhaps it is time to consider trying policosanol, the nondrug alternative.
Helps Intermittent Claudication. Another consequence of atherosclerosis is a condition called intermittent claudication. Claudication is an old term for limping; the medical phrase refers to intense pain and cramping in the legs, which occurs after walking or similar exercise. It results from insufficient blood flow to the leg muscles. In a Cuban study, 31 patients with intermittent claudication were given 20 mg daily of policosanol, while another 31 were given a placebo. The distance a patient could walk without developing pain was measured on a treadmill before and after six months of treatment. The patients who took policosanol experienced a 50% improvement in performance. They were able to walk an average of about 70 meters farther, a distance interpreted as statistically significant. There were no significant changes in the control group.
Combining RYR and policosanol. There are no contraindications between the two substances. In fact, some products on the market contain both substances. If you stop taking RYR and switch to policosanol, your cholesterol levels may fluctuate or even increase to the pre-supplementation level within 2-4 weeks. Policosanol works through a different mechanism of action. Some research suggests that policosanol reaches its full efficacy within 8-12 weeks. In order to minimize this fluctuation, you may want to try a transition period that includes both RYR and policosanol. You can begin the full-dose of policosanol, while gradually reducing the RYR intake. After eight weeks you will only be using policosanol.
Precautions. Policosanol is thought to reduce the platelet aggregation (i.e., the "stickiness" of platelets, the blood elements that promote blood clotting,) so should be used with caution, if at all, in patients taking blood thinners such as Coumadin.
Dosage. The product sold on this web site contains 60 tablets, each with 10 mg of active policosanol made from sugar cane. Sometimes calcium is added, not as a nutrient, but to assist in proper assimilation of the product. The suggested beginning dosage is two tablets per day. This can then be adjusted up or down in accordance with your needs. If only one tablet is taken, it is advisable to take it at dinner, since the body manufacturers most of its cholesterol at night.
Not all brands of this product deliver the stated potency. Consumerlab.com analyzed seven products and found that four contained less than the amount stated on the label. Our product is one of the three good brands.
The majority of studies on policosanol indicate that it is well tolerated. The potential does exist, however, for allergic reactions, so people with a history of bee or food allergies, especially to sugar cane, should exercise caution. Published studies on policosanol demonstrate that significant results can be obtained within the first eight to twelve weeks of use.
More information. For detailed information about scientific studies on policosanol, see Policosanol Studies.