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policosanol
What Is It?
General Interaction
Cautions


What Is It?

Policosanol is a unique natural product derived from sugar cane wax and beeswax: It has proved effective at reducing cholesterol levels and for some individuals may be a reasonable natural alternative to the commonly prescribed "statin-type" cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Most research using the sugarcane-derived form of policosanol has been conducted in Cuba, in both animals and humans. The studies showed that policosanol not only reduced cholesterol levels, but also had positive effects on other cardiac risk factors, through actions such as reducing platelet "clumping" and inhibiting the development of atherosclerosis. A 2002 analysis in the American Heart Journal reviewed more than 60 clinical trials of sugar cane-derived policosanol that involved more than 3000 patients. The authors concluded that policosanol is "a very promising phytochemical alternative to classic lipid-lowering agents such as statins."

This could be welcome news for some of the 30 million Americans who are currently using the expensive statindrugs. Some studies indicated that policosanol is not only equal to, but may possibly even be somewhat more effective than statins or fibrates in lowering total and LDL cholesterol and increasing "good" cholesterol, or HDL. One study showed that patients taking the standard daily 10 mg dose of policosanol experienced a 17% drop in total cholesterol, a 25.6% drop in LDL cholesterol, and a 28.4% rise in HDL cholesterol. These percentages are equal to results obtained with statin medications.

Some studies confirmed the cholesterol-lowering effects of policosanol in specific groups, including post-menopausal women, the elderly, and people who have both diabetes and heart disease. In addition, policosanol was effective in treating intermittent claudication, a condition in which poor circulation in the legs causes severe leg pain during exercise. Because policosanol reduces the tendency of blood to clot by reducing the "stickiness" of blood platelets, the tiny particles involved in clotting, it may help prevent cardiovascular disease in a manner similar to aspirin.

During the research, study participants reported very few side effects. Because of this, policosanol may require less monitoring with blood tests than statin medications do. Although it appears there are no major side effects with policosanol, some people have reported weight loss, rashes, migraines, insomnia or drowsiness, irritability, dizziness, upset stomach, and nose and gum bleeding.

Policosanol is usually taken once or twice a day. Some nutritional supplement manufacturers combine policosanol with other heart-healthy substances such as Coenzyme Q10 and antioxidants.

General Interaction

Because policosanol can thin the blood as much as aspirin, if you are taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen or naproxen, consult your health care provider before taking policosanol.

There are no known interactions with nutrients or foods.

Cautions

Do not take policosanol if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Although very rare, it is theoretically possible that people who are allergic to bee stings or have a food sensitivity to sugar cane might risk side effects from policosanol.


Date Published: 04/19/2005
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