The Supplement Guide
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General Description

Policosanol is the generic term used to describe a mixture of long-chain primary aliphatic saturated alcohols that are sold in pill form as a supplement.


The primary purpose of Policosanol is to lower cholesterol. Itís action as a supplement is thought to be comparable to the popular statin drugs that are currently used to lower cholesterol.


The cholesterol lowering alcohols in Policosanol are derived from the waxes of such plants as sugar cane and yams. They are also found in beeswax. These long-chain alcohols are solid waxy substances and are soluble in water. They are known collectively as fatty alcohols.


The main alcohol in Policosanol which is responsible for lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) and raising HDL (good cholesterol.) is called Octacosonal. Studies have indicated that Octacosonal works by inhibiting the liver from creating excess cholesterol.


Sources of the Supplement

The most expedient and least expensive source of Policosanol is extracted from the wax of the sugar cane plant. Sugarcane is mainly produced in Cuba and South American countries such as Venezuela. In Cuba sugar cane wax is consumed as a body energizer, a libido lifter and to lower cholesterol.


Sugar cane typically contains about sixty percent Octacosonal. Octacosonal is the primary long-chain alcohol in Policosanol that is responsible for lowering cholesterol.


As the United States has a trade embargo against Cuba, sugarcane wax is not available to manufacturers of Policosanol in the United States. Policosanol products in the United States are more expensive as the fatty alcohols are extracted from wheat germ and beeswax. 


Common Uses

The two main benefits of using Policosanol are:


  • To lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels
  • To raise  HDL (good) cholesterol levels


There is preliminary evidence, mostly anecdotal or observational, that indicates that Policosanol works by reducing platelet aggregation in both healthy individuals and people with high cholesterol and plaque build up.  Taking it as a supplement may also be a way of preventing a heart attack or heart disease in the future as it may discourage the hereditary predisposition to store plaque on the artery walls. However not enough research has been specifically done on human beings to completely substantiate these findings.


It is not exactly known how the fatty acids in Policosanol manage to lower cholesterol. It is not clear just yet if the supplement has a direct action on the liver or if the supplement succeeds in lowering cholesterol through some other type of action. 


Furthermore different long chain alcohols in Policosanol all seem to play different biochemical roles when it comes to helping to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. It is known that Octacosonal by itself may not have the same activities as Policosanol. They may work synergistically.  Thus it is not recommended to take Octacosonal as a supplement on its own, even though it is now sold that way, as the efficiency of Octacosonal on its own has not been proven to lower cholesterol.


The studies that have been performed on Octacosonal have had optimistic results when conducted on experimental animals. Octacosonal is absorbed from the small intestine into the lymph nodes and from there enters the blood stream where it is distributed in the fatty tissues of the liver, skeletal muscles and adipose (fatty) tissues.  In animals Octacosonal lowers cholesterol levels within thirty minutes.


There have also been a number of animal studies done that suggest that Policosanol can help reduce the likelihood of strokes by inhibiting platelet aggregation in the brain.


Many of the studies done on Octacosonal have been published in Cuba and are not accepted by other countries. However the main study that was ever done on humans was also done in Cuba.


In the Cuban study which was a double blind study on the effects of Policosanol on high cholesterol subjects received 5 milligrams of Policosanol or placebo daily for twelve weeks followed by 10 milligrams of Policosanol or placebo for an additional twelve weeks.


Taking five or ten milligrams daily of Policosanol (5 appeared to significantly reduce LDL-cholesterol (18.2% and 25.6% respectively) and reduce cholesterol (13% and 17.4%). It appeared to raise HDL-cholesterol (15.5% and 28.4%).


Triglycerides (fat globules in the blood)  were unchanged in the first 12-week period of the Cuban study but were significantly reduced (5.2%) by the end of the second 12-week period. Side effects were few and minor.


The conclusion was that Policosanol appears to significantly reduce platelet aggregation in both health individuals and individuals who had high cholesterol. The study also concluded that taking twenty milligrams of Policosanol a day was as effective as taking 100 milligrams of aspirin a day.


The study also found that using 5 milligrams of Policosanol twice a day for twenty months resulted in significant improvement in treadmill exercise performance and exercise in a group of  coronary heart disease patients. The addition of 125 milligrams of aspirin to the 5 milligram dose of daily Policosanol further enhanced these results.


Unfortunately no American studies on humans are parallel to the Cuban studies in terms of studying the effects of Policosanol on cholesterol levels and heart attack patients.

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