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Policosanol for Heart Health

Policosanol for Heart Health

One of the newest discoveries in the treatment of heart disease risk comes from Cuba.  It is a proprietary extract called policosanol, which is derived from sugar cane wax.  Policosanol contains a variety of long-chain alcohols, including octacosanol.  Policosanol has an exceptional safety profile. Based on a survey of over 27,000 users of policosanol,  weight loss is its only known side effect.1 Numerous human studies have demonstrated reproducible, favorable, and significant alterations in blood cholesterol profiles with both nondiabetic and diabetic subjects. 2,3,4,5,6,7

Policosanol is similar in function and potency to some statin drugs.8,9  Researchers recently found policosanol could extend exercise tolerance in patients with intermittent claudication, a leg lameness brought on by exercise and a marker of vascular disease.10  Research also showed that policosanol reduces cardiac risk factors by inhibiting platelet aggregation and the development of artherosclerosis. 

A 2002 study published in the American Heart Journal reviewed the literature on placebo-controlled lipid-lowering studies using policosanol.  It found that at doses of 10 to 20 mg per day, policosanol lowered cholesterol by 17 to 21 percent, lowering component LDL by 21 to 29 percent, and raised HDL by 8 to 15 percent.  The study concluded that policosanol is "a very promising phytochemical alternative to classic lipid-lowering agents such as statins.11  About 30 million Americans use statin drugs. 

In a study published in 2003, patients who took a daily dose of 10 mg of policosanol experienced a 17.5 percent drop in total cholesterol, a 31 percent drop in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), and a 31.5 percent rise in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).  These results suggest that policosanol is as effective as prescription drugs, without their side effects.12

In another study, after using 10 mg/day policosanol for two years, study participants tripled their treadmill walking distance.  The placebo group experienced insignificant change.  The 10 mg per day dose required for effectiveness is novel for a dietary supplement, and reminiscent of statin drugs, which are usually dispensed in 10 mg or 20 mg dosages. 

Other policosanol products not derived from Cuban sugar cane wax have not been researched. 


  1. Fernandez L, et al. Policosanol: results of a postmarketing surveillance study of 27,879 patients.  Curr Ther Res 1998;59:717-22

  2. Pons P, it al. Effect of successive dose increases of policosanol on the lipid profile of patients with type II hypercholesterolemia and tolerability to treatment.  Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1994;14:27-33.

  3. Aneiros EM et al. Effect of policosanol in lowering cholesterol levels in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia.  Curr Ther Res 1995;56:176-82.

  4. Castafio G, et al. One-year study of the efficacy and safety of policosanol (5 mg twice daily) in the treatment of type II hypercholesterolemia.  Curr Ther Res 1995;56:296-304.

  5. Canetti M et al. A two-year study on the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol in patients with type II hyperlipoproteinaemia. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1995;15:159-65.

  6. Mas R, et al. Effects of policosanol in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia and additional coronary risk factors. Clin Pharmacol Ther 1998;65:439-47.

  7. Torres O, et al. Treatment of hypercholesterolemia in noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) with policosanol. Diabetes Care 1997;18:393-7.

  8. Fernandez JC et al. Comparison of the efficacy, safety and tolerability of policosanol versus fluvastatin in elderly hypercholesterolaemic women. Clin Drug Invest 2001;21:103-13.

  9. Castano G, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of policosanol compared with lovastatin in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia and concomitant coronary risk factors. Curr Ther Res 2000;61:137-46.

  10. Castano G,  et al. A long-term study of policosanol in the treatment of intermittent claudication. Angiology 2001;52:115-25.

  11. Gouni-Berthold I, Berthold HK. Policosanol: clinical pharmacology and therapeutic significance of a new lipid-lowering agent. Am Heart J 2002;143:356.

  12. Castano G et al. Effects of policosanol and Lovastatin with intermittent claudication: a double-blind comparative pilot study.  Angiology 2003;54:25.

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