Policosanol Helps Reduce High Cholesterol
Policosanol, a substance derived from the wax of sugar cane, is helpful in reducing cholesterol levels in people with abnormally high cholesterol. High cholesterol can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Policosanol is relatively new to the United States market, but appears to be a promising new agent in the fight against cardiovascular disease.
Numerous controlled studies have shown that policosanol is an effective treatment for elevated cholesterol. In one study, participants received 20 or 40 mg per day of policosanol or a placebo for six months. Total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased significantly and HDL (“good”) cholesterol increased in both groups that received policosanol, while none of the cholesterol markers changed in those taking a placebo. The researchers also found that taking 40 mg per day of policosanol was no more effective than taking 20 mg per day, which suggests that the lower amount is sufficient to reduce the levels of “bad” cholesterol. No side effects were reported in either group taking policosanol.
In a six-month study, 10 mg per day of policosanol reduced total cholesterol by 16% and LDL cholesterol by 24%, and increased HDL cholesterol by 29%. Several other studies have compared policosanol with some of the conventional medications used for lowering cholesterol and the results have shown policosanol in the amount of 5 to 20 mg per day to be more effective than lovastatin (Mevacor®), pravastatin (Pravachol®), and simvastatin (Zocor®), with fewer reported side effects. While some prescription drugs used to lower cholesterol may cause liver and muscle problems in rare instances, people taking policosanol have not suffered any serious side effects.
Policosanol may also be helpful for other conditions. A two-year study showed that 20 mg per day of policosanol significantly improved lower leg pain during walking in people with hardening of the arteries in the legs (intermittent claudication). Policosanol may also help prevent blood clots by thinning the blood; in one study it was as effective a blood thinner as 100 mg per day of aspirin. The combination of policosanol and aspirin was even more effective than either treatment alone.
Research has shown that as little as 5 mg per day of policosanol can significantly reduce high cholesterol and has an excellent safety profile. For some individuals, higher amounts may be necessary to bring cholesterol down to a safe level. Please consult a physician to determine the appropriate amount to take.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of Garlic and Cholesterol: Everything You Need to Know (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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