The benefits of policosanol are it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally. It is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and can also help raise HDL cholesterol. Since there are few policosanol side effects, it is considered to be very safe as well as effective.
What is It and How Does It Work?
Policosanol is one of a number of natural cholesterol lowering supplements. It is extracted from sugar cane. It is made up of octacosanol which is a “long chain fatty alcohol” and several other long chain fatty alcohols. It works by preventing the synthesis of cholesterol, but in a way that is different from statin drugs.
It doesn’t block the HMG-CoA enzyme the way “statin” cholesterol-lowering drugs do, but the precise way that it works is not understood. It does not seem to have the negative effects on energy metabolism that statins do. The standard recommended dosage for policosanol is 5-20 mg/day.
Benefits of Policosanol
The main benefit of this supplement is it’s ability to lower cholesterol naturally. Other benefits are:
- Helps prevent the formation of artery lesions
- Inhibits the formation of blood clots
- Reduces levels of a blood vessel-constricting eicosanoid called Thromboxane
- Stops cell overgrowth which can cause narrowing of your arteries
- Is effective in lowering LDL cholesterol
- Can raise HDL cholesterol
- Enhances the effect of exercise
- Inhibits the oxidation of LDL cholesterol which decreases inflammation
Effects on Exercise
It has been shown in studies to increase stamina and oxygen uptake during exercise. It is apparently used in muscle tissue as an energy substrate and positively enhances energy production. It’s initially stored in the liver but eventually finds it’s way into muscle tissue, enhancing metabolic activity.
Studies were done in Japan with 10 mg per day , which increased endurance, oxygen uptake and aerobic capacity, as measured on treadmill ECG testing. It also reduced ischemia, improved reflexes, and increased muscle strength.
Additional Benefits of Policosanol
In postmenopausal women and people over 60 who are at increased risk for heart disease, it decreased LDL cholesterol by 25% and lowered total cholesterol by 17%. This was achieved at a dosage of 10 milligrams per day.
At the 20 milligram per day dosage level, it gave people with intermittent claudication (muscle pain, cramps, and fatigue while walking) relief, and allowed them to walk greater distances with less pain. This shows that policosanol has therapeutic value that goes beyond beneficial effects on cholesterol.
Policosanol Side Effects
Along with the benefits of policosanol there are a few side effects that were reported in clinical trials.
The main side effect reported was weight loss, and the other side effect was abdominal pain, however this effect was also reported in the people who were not taking it, so it is not clear that it had anything to do with policosanol being taken.
Policosanol is very safe. Rats given dosages that were 1724 times what a human dose would be, showed no signs of toxicity. There was also no carcinogenic (cancer) activity associated with it. All tolled the side effects of are for all intents and purposes 100% positive, with no proven negative effects at all!
Although policosanol is not a drug, people may be concerned about it causing problems for them if they are on medications. However, there is no evidence that it causes any problems when used with drugs that are being taken.
There is evidence that it can enhance the effects of propranol (a blood pressure lowering drug), so caution should be taken with this combination.
There haven’t been any studies done combining it with specific drugs or types of drugs, however there was NO reported adverse effects when using policosanol along with the following:
- Anti-coagulents (blood thinners)
- Calcium antagonists
- Thyroid hormones
- Ulcer drugs
- Anti-anxiety drugs
Does Not Inhibit Sexual Function
One of the best things that can be said about policosanol is that it does not inhibit sexual function like statin drugs can, even at high dosages used in animal experiments. Studies with male rats showed that it increased sexual activity, but the mechanism that caused this wasn’t clear. Thus when it’s used in normal amounts there is NO negative effect on a person’s sex life!
Safe, Effective, and Natural
There are many natural alternatives to statin drugs out there for optimizing your cholesterol profile. Research these carefully and coordinate your efforts with an integrative cardiologist who understands how to use nutritional approaches to promote heart health.
Benefits of policosanol are that it is one of the safest and most effective cholesterol lowering supplements available and it compares very favorably with “statin” drugs while at the same time having none of the side effects or toxicity.