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Can You Use Policosanol For Lowering Cholesterol?

Studies With Policosanol Are Conflicting, But May Benefit Cholesterol


Updated September 09, 2013

You may have already seen this emerging dietary supplement on the shelf, either as a single supplement or incorporated into a multivitamin marketed for lowering cholesterol. Policosanol consists of numerous long-chained, fatty alcohols extracted from the plant, Saccharum officinarum, (sugar cane) and beeswax. The predominant alcohol in policosanol, octacosanol, has been previously shown to lower total cholesterol levels and LDL levels and is sold separately at pharmacies.

What Does Policosanol Do?

Policosanol has been shown to lower low density lipoprotein levels (LDL) and total cholesterol levels, raise high density lipoproteins (HDL), as well as prevent the blood from clotting.

How Does Policosanol Work?

With regard to its lipid-lowering capabilities, the current mechanism by which policosanol functions is not known. Previous studies have indicated that policosanol lowers cholesterol by preventing it from being made in the liver. However, it is not known which step in the synthesis of cholesterol this supplement interacts with. Other studies have previously indicated that policosanol increases the uptake and removal of LDL cholesterol from the cell.

The most recent evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Journal of Nutrition contrasts this. Recent research reveals that there is no significant change in cholesterol levels in those taking policosanol. Therefore, if you desire lower cholesterol levels, don't solely rely on policosanol - you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about using other alternatives.

Policosanol also demonstrates antiplatelet activity, therefore preventing the blood from clotting. It does this by decreasing thromboxane A2, a substance made by platelets that constricts blood vessels and encourages clotting.

How Should I Take Policosanol?

If you want to take policosanol to lower your cholesterol levels, 5 to 10 mg a day is suggested and 20 mg should not be exceeded in one day . It should be noted that policosanol has not been fully proven scientifically to lower cholesterol levels. This supplement may still be taken, since it is included in some multivitamins, however, it may not help lower your cholesterol levels.

The standard dose effective in decreasing clotting is 10 mg twice a day. These doses should be taken with food.

Who Should NOT Take This Supplement?

As with any medication, regardless of whether it is prescription or non-prescription, you should consult your heath care practitioner before beginning a new regimen. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, hemophiliacs, children, and individuals who have an allergy to beeswax, bees, yams, or sugar cane should not take this supplement.

What Are The Side Effects Associated With This Medication?

From the studies so far, it appears that side effects are minimal, however, gastrointestinal symptoms, weight loss, and headache were the most reported.

Will This Interact With the Other Medications I Am Taking?

Taking policosanol with blood thinners, such as aspirin or Coumadin may increase the effects of these drugs and cause you to bleed more easily. Other drug interactions are not known at this time.

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