Policosanol–An Effect Cholesterol Lowering Supplement?

I received the following question: “I have a 3 part question. Before i buy policosanol, is it good for lowering cholorestol? My total is 255 and my hdl is low and my ldl is very high, can i safely take 10 mg, 2 a day. Where can i buy it made with sugar cane not bees wax ?  and will my sugar increase alot?? Does Wilner make it with sugarcane? . . .”

Policosanol is a substance derived from sugar cane wax, bees wax, rice bran wax, or wheat germ. Chemically, it is a purified mixture of long-chain alcohols, or waxes. It’s primary claim to fame is that it may lower blood cholesterol levels. Earlier, a type of policosanol, octacosanol, derived from wheat germ, was thought to boost energy and stamina.

It’s reputation as a cholesterol lowering agent was based on a large number of studies done in Cuba in the 1990’s. The material used in these studies was derived from sugar cane wax.

The studies were impressive. It was shown to decrease total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol. This, of course, is good. Various theories were put forward to explain it action, usually revolving around its ability to inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver. Interest, and, of course, marketing fervor, in policosanol went through the roof.

One small problem. Almost all of the initial, positive research on policosanol was done in Cuba, by a single research group that just happened to own the policosanol patent. Later, when researchers in other countries tried to replicate the research, they did not find the same benefit.

Why not. Perhaps there is something unique about the material manufactured from Cuban sugar cane. Perhaps policosanol derived from other substances–beeswax, rice bran wax, wheat germ, etc–is significantly different, although from a chemistry standpoint you would not expect that to be the case. Or, maybe the initial research, done by a group with self-serving goals, was not as objective as it could have been.

The bottom line is that we do not know for sure just how effective policosanol really is as a cholesterol-lowering agent. It may work. The good news is that one thing that everyone does agree on is that it is not harmful. Years of use have revealed no concern about toxicity.

There are many nutritional and herbal treatments for elevated cholesterol. In addition to policosanol, there is beta-glucan containing substances from yeast and oat bran, plant stanols and sterols, water-soluble fiber supplements (psyllium, oat, guar), tocotrienols, chromium, niacin, pantethine, red yeast rice, artichoke, garlic, gum guggul and others. When faced with so many choices, how do you decide whether policosanol should be at the top or bottom of that list?

I cannot answer that, except to say that it is a mistake to think that any one of these agents, alone, is going to do the job by itself. These non-drug agents are effective, but work best when combined. This includes diet and lifestyle modifications as well. When choosing the combination of nutritional interventions that seem right for you, policosanol could very well be included.

One challenge remains. What type of policosanol supplement do you choose. Theoretically, the source of the policosanol–whether sugar cane or rice bran–should not matter. It’s hard to understand, from a chemistry standpoint, why one would work and the other not work. So I do not worry that much about the source. On the other hand, if research on sugar cane derived policosanol was so positive, why not use that material? Why take a chance? Why not use the material that yielded positive results?

The problem is that due to patent issues, trade embargo issues, etc, Cuban sugarcane policosanol is not readily available in the United States. You can get the following at Willner Chemists (www.willner.com). They claim to contain policosanol derived from sugar cane.

Metagenics Brand: Cholarest SC (Willner Code 43922, 180 tab and Code 41257, 60 tab)
Pure Encapsulations Brand: Policosanol 10, (Willner Code 45249, 120 vcap)
Pure Encapsulations Brand: Policosanol 20, (Willner Code 50334, 120 v caps)
Rx Vitamins Brand: Policosanol 10 (Willner Code 40258 60 cap)

I like to combine a phytosterol supplement (such as beta-sitosterol, stanols) along with a policosanol supplement. While it is thought that policosanol blocks the hepatic synthesis of cholesterol, it is thought that plant sterols block the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines. Thus, logic indicates a complementary action between the two agents. Two examples of supplements containing phytosterols are the following:

Solgar Brand: Phytosterol Complex 1000 mg, 100 Softgels (Willner Code: 58105)
Twinlab Brand: Cholesterol Success 120 Tabs (Willner Code: 38951)

Finally, for those of you who might be getting frustrated by having too many choices, and too many decisions to make, there are many good products on the market that contain combinations of the various agents I have mentioned above. If you are interested in products of that type, here are some examples:

Solgar Cholesterol Support, 60 Tab (Willner Code: 29038)
Jarrow ChoLess Optimizer, 120 Tab (Willner Code 58177)
DaVinci Labs CholestSure, 20 Vcaps (Willner Code: 42193)

Don Goldberg

For your convenience, the following link should take you to a listing of the products mentioned above. Some of these are “professional” products, so full pricing may not be indicated. Call 1 800 633 1106 for additional information)

(http://www.willner.com/products.aspx?pid=43922,41257,45249,50334,40258,58105,38951,29038,58177,42193)

About Don Goldberg

Hello. I am what you might call a Nutritional Pharmacist. After college, I worked in the Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Industry, first in Quality Control, and then in Manufacturing and Product Development. Increasingly, as the years passed, I became more involved with nutritional supplements. I spent many years detailing physicians, herbalists, and homeopaths about nutritional and herbal therapies and products. In 1992, along with my friend Arnie Gitomer, I bought Willner Chemists, a well-established nutritionally oriented pharmacy. For the first time, I had an opportunity to communicate directly with the consumer, the patient, and the customer. I love it. This blog is an additional way for me to extend my personal views and opinions directly to you. You can also hear me on the radio, every Sunday, from 2 to 4 pm on WOR radio in NY (710 AM), or WGKA in Atlanta (920 AM). Or check our website, www.willner.com.
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3 Responses to Policosanol–An Effect Cholesterol Lowering Supplement?

  1. julieann says:

    Thank you
    Don Goldberg that was very helpfull, what u told me abour policosanol

    i have another question i have alot of trouble sleeping, im 62 female, and i think i tried everything things work for about 4 days then stop working i tried warm milk, decaffinated tea, melatonin, valerian, L Theanin, something called deep sleep.
    What do u suggest??

    • Monica says:

      Where to buy policosanol? What is the mg in one pill?

      It will take how long to lower my Cholesterol (I have 265 total) ?

      Does it have any side effects? Does it make me gain weight or lose weight?

      Thank you for your help

      • Don Goldberg says:

        Monica,
        You can buy policosanol at most health food stores. I suggest Willner Chemists, the store I am associated with, as you will find a wide variety of sources and good discount prices.
        Go to http://www.willner.com and type “policosanol” in the search box.
        I also suggest you re-read the article about policosanol here on the blog. There is no way anyone can answer your question about how long it will take to lower your cholesterol. Side effects should not be a concern, and I see no reason to anticipate any effect on your weight.
        I am suggesting you re-read the article because I am concerned that you are anticipating that this one supplement, policosanol, alone, will solve your problem. That is not my experience. At a cholesterol level of 265, you should be looking at a combination of several cholesterol-lowering supplements, not one. There are many combination products, designed for this purpose, that you could use if that is more convenient.
        Don Goldberg

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