What is policosanol?
Policosanol is a natural product, derived from the waxy coating of sugar cane, now available in
Australia to lower high blood cholesterol.
What is policosanol's effect on cholesterol?
Policosanol has been shown to be effective in lowering both total cholesterol and low density
lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the so-called'bad'cholesterol.
It has also been shown to increase levels of the 'good' type of cholesterol, high density
lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Why is LDL cholesterol important?
The level of LDL in a person's blood is linked to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the blood vessels due
to build up of lipids, sometimes known as 'hardening of the arteries').
Having a high level of LDL cholesterol puts a person at risk of having coronary heart disease.
Why is HDL cholesterol important?
HDL is called the 'good' cholesterol as it can actually help carry cholesterol away from the arteries to
the liver, where it is processed and excreted from the body.
A relatively high proportion of HDL in your total cholesterol level may be beneficial in reducing the
risk of coronary heart disease. Policosanol can increase levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.
How does policosanol work?
Doctors have not yet discovered the exact mechanism of action by which policosanol lowers LDL
cholesterol, but superficially it seems to be similar to that of other cholesterol-lowering drugs.
It appears to decrease the production of cholesterol in the body and also increase clearance of LDL
cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Other effects of policosanol
Policosanol has also been shown to reduce the stickiness of blood platelets. Blood platelets are the
cells that congregate at sites of bleeding in the body and stick to each other to form a plug which
stops the bleeding.
They also release chemicals to attract more platelets and promote formation of a clot. This is usually
a beneficial effect in the body, particularly when we are injured. This mechanism can also contribute
to the formation of clots in narrowed blood vessels which become damaged where cholesterol and
fats have built up.
So, if the blood platelets are reduced in stickiness "which is what policosanol achieves "there is less
chance of a clot (thrombus) forming.
How effective is policosanol at reducing cholesterol?
Total cholesterol — a single daily dose of 5 mg to 10 mg of policosanol has been shown in some studies
to significantly reduce total cholesterol by between 8 per cent and 18 per cent.
LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) — in some studies a single daily dose of 5 mg to 10 mg of policosanol
reduced LDL cholesterol by
between 11 per cent and 28 per cent compared with the level before treatment.
The reduction in LDL cholesterol with 10 mg of policosanol was comparable to results obtained with
low-doses of statins — a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as pravastatin and simvastatin.
HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) — in other studies a single daily dose of 5 mg to 10 mg of policosanol increased HDL cholesterol by
between 17 per cent and 29 per cent.
These results were achieved after a treatment period of 8 weeks and were maintained when
policosanol was given after that period.
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