More than two-thirds of policosanol is made of the eight-chain alcohol octacosanol. In isolation, octacosanol is often used by athletes to improve athletic performance. The rest of the policosanol molecule is comprised of alcohols with varying chain lengths, which accounts for the use of the prefix “poly” (which means many) in the product name.
Policosanol has been shown to be effective in lowering cholesterol levels in the blood and to lower the risk of developing atherosclerosis. It works in two ways; first by slowing down the process of cholesterol synthesis in the liver and also by helping the liver absorb bad (LDL) cholesterol and increase good (HDL) cholesterol.
In other words, policosanol reduces cholesterol levels by stopping the liver from making excessive amount in the first place and also by helping the liver to break down whatever cholesterol the liver does produce as well as the cholesterol ingested from foods.
Policosanol has also been used as an alternative to aspirin or other nutritional supplements to thin blood and prevent the formation of blood clots.
Clinical studies have examined the effects of policosanol on cholesterol levels in approximately 30,000 people. In fact, it is the most widely researched natural substance for cholesterol management, with both long and short term placebo-controlled studies and safety studies having been conducted.
It has been compared to prescription medications and has been found to produce positive results after six to eight weeks of regular use with no significant safety issues reported.
In fact, unlike prescription cholesterol lowering medications, people with liver disease can use policosanol safely as can elderly people and people with diabetes.
It should be noted, though, that almost all of the studies on policosanol were conducted in Cuba by the company the holds the patent for producing policosanol from sugar cane. While Cuban studies highly tout the benefits of policosanol for people with elevated cholesterol levels, the results of other studies are inconclusive.
Policosanol is available at most health food stores and is usually sold in tablet form. The recommended amount of policosanol is one or two 5 or 6 mg tablets taken in the evening with food. If results are not apparent within two months, the dose can be doubled to a maximum of 24 mg per day. Tablets containing 10 mg of policosanol are available for people taking higher doses, or who only want to take a single capsule per day.
Another cholesterol-lowering formulation worth investigating (which features policosanol prominently in its formula) is Xtend-Life’s Cholest-Natural—you can learn more about it here!
Policosanol is not a panacea and should not replace healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise and a low fat diet for cholesterol management. Possible side effects are mild and usually subside quickly. These side effects include rash, headache, stomach upset and weight loss.
People who are taking any kind of blood thinning medications or nutritional supplements, including aspirin, Coumadin, Plavix, vitamin E, ginkgo or garlic should use policosanol with caution since it may increase the effects of these medications.