Policosanol Packs a One-Two Punch

Policosanol Lowers Cholesterol
and Inhibits Lipid Oxidation

Sugar cane extract also found extremely safe to use

f you suffer from hyperlipidemia (high levels of blood lipids, mainly cholesterol and triglycerides), you are at increased risk of suffering from heart disease. One of the best ways to reduce that risk is to bring your cholesterol back down to a healthy level. An expert panel assembled under the auspices of the National Cholesterol Education Program has established the following health guidelines for total cholesterol concentrations in the blood: a value under 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) is "desirable"; 200-239 is "borderline high"; and 240 or more is "high."1

The extent of hyperlipidemia in the United States is sobering. About 100 million American adults (one-third of the entire population) have total blood cholesterol levels that exceed 200 mg/dL, and about 40 million of those have levels above 240.2 Thus, it's clear that a large proportion of the adult population is courting danger with respect to its cardiovascular health.

Is there anything you can do to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease? Absolutely! A positive change in lifestyle, though often difficult to implement, is a great path to health, cardiovascular and otherwise. First and foremost, a healthy exercise regimen and a diet low in fat and high in fiber will put you well on your way toward cardiac fitness.

If you have high cholesterol levels, natural lipid-lowering agents such as policosanol may help as well. Much scientific evidence points to the beneficial role that policosanol can play in reducing cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemic patients. In addition, a recent article demonstrates that policosanol inhibits lipid oxidation in elderly patients. We'll come back to that shortly.

Thrombosis is the blockage of blood flow - by a blood clot, for example - to bodily tissues. If this happens in the heart, it can cause a heart attack; in the brain, it can cause a stroke (a "brain attack"). Another type of cardiovascular disease, however, takes a stealthier approach to undermining your health: atherosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaque deposits inside the blood vessels, commonly affects the coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle itself with blood. It decreases the inner diameter of the arteries and thus impedes blood flow to the heart. This can result in angina pectoris (chest pain) or a more serious outcome, such as a heart attack. So it's obviously to your advantage to do whatever you can to maintain an efficient and healthy cardiovascular system and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis.

You have more control over that risk than you may realize. This is because the three major causes of atherosclerosis (hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, and smoking) are all factors that can be reduced to some extent by changes in lifestyle. Of these three, hyperlipidemia has the greatest impact on the progression of atherosclerosis. Thus, significantly lowering your blood cholesterol levels is likely to reap great rewards.

Policosanol is a complex mixture of compounds usually extracted from sugar cane - but sometimes from beeswax - that reduce blood cholesterol levels. Purified from beeswax, the mixture is called D-002; purified from sugar cane, it is called D-003.* Although these substances are similar in chemical content, the relative amounts of octacosanol they contain (the molecule that is thought to be the most active ingredient) are different: octacosanol is more abundant in D-003.3,4

*You may think that because policosanol is derived from sugar cane, it will increase blood glucose levels. Rest assured that it won't. Policosanol is not a sugar (chemically, it is an alcohol). Besides, the amount in a daily serving is minuscule to begin with.

These substances work by inhibiting the function of an enzyme in the liver called HMG-CoA reductase, which is required for the body to produce cholesterol. On average, your liver synthesizes two to six times as much cholesterol as the amount you obtain from your diet. This is why prescription drugs that inhibit HMG-CoA reductase are often effective in lowering blood cholesterol levels when dietary approaches (such as limiting cholesterol and fat intake) fail.

But prescription drugs are not the only means of inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver. Naturally derived policosanol works by a similar mechanism, and in many well-controlled clinical trials, it has been shown to work as well as, or better than, the class of drugs called statins (see "Policosanol Lowers Cholesterol Better Than Prescription Drugs" in Life Enhancement, September 2001).

Why Healthy Blood Is Important

Blood, that magical liquid that sustains the life of all warm-blooded animals, is an extremely complex fluid. It contains red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, clotting factors, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, cholesterol, lipoproteins, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, glucose . . . the list could go on for the next several pages, but you get the idea - there's a lot of stuff circulating throughout your body constantly. Blood is necessarily complex because it has to deliver all the building blocks of life to every cell in your body, while simultaneously removing the unwanted products of cellular metabolism, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogenous compounds that get converted to urea.

To understand this complexity, consider that the blood picks up nutrients and water from the digestive system, insulin from the pancreas, other hormones from the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and gonads, oxygen from the lungs, glucose and lipoproteins from the liver, and blood cells from the bone marrow, and distributes these essential entities to the appropriate destinations throughout the body. All in all, it's pretty easy to understand the essential role that blood plays in maintaining the health of each of your organs, and your body overall.

Just as easily, you can probably imagine the consequences when your circulatory system starts to deteriorate: unwanted products build up, and oxygen and glucose supplies are restricted. Cells suffer dramatically. Some cells, such as those of the heart and brain, are especially susceptible to damage. They require constant supplies of oxygen and glucose, for example, and can tolerate being deprived of these nutrients for only a few minutes before suffering irreversible harm.

Because this scenario is so common in our society, cardiovascular disease (which includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, and stroke) claims more lives in the United States than any other disease. In fact, 40.6% (949,619 deaths total) of all deaths reported in 1998 were directly attributed to poor cardiovascular health.1

  1. American Heart Association.

It is well established that hyperlipidemia accelerates the formation of artery-clogging atherosclerotic plaque and that this process is facilitated by oxidation of the lipids. It follows that inhibiting lipid oxidation will retard the development of atherosclerosis. It is exciting, therefore, to realize that, in addition to inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the liver, policosanol inhibits lipid oxidation in the bloodstream. Thus, it does double duty to protect your cardiovascular health.

A 12-week study published recently demonstrated that the extent of lipid oxidation decreases significantly in elderly patients treated daily with 50 mg of D-002 (policosanol derived from beeswax).5 The study involved 48 patients with an average age of 67, and the lipid oxidation level in each patient's blood was measured at the beginning and end of the study. In the treated group, it decreased by a modest yet significant 6.7%, vs. no change in the control group. In addition, the overall antioxidant capacity of the blood increased by 20.3% in the treated group, but by only 1.7% in the control group. (Antioxidants, as the name implies, are protective against oxidation.)

Hyperlipidemia has the greatest
impact on the progression of
atherosclerosis. Thus, significantly
lowering your cholesterol levels is
likely to reap great rewards.

Older patients often take numerous medications. Such was the case in this study, where participants took calcium-channel blockers, beta-blockers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics, muscle relaxants, nitrates, antihistamines, digitalis, and anxiolytics. Importantly, none of the patients taking these drugs had any adverse reactions when taking policosanol at the same time.

It's great that policosanol lowers lipid oxidation in the blood, but perhaps even more important is that it lowers blood cholesterol levels in older hyperlipidemic patients as well. Several studies on this have been performed in recent years, dating back as far as 1993. In one of the earlier trials, 10 mg of policosanol administered once daily for 24 weeks caused total cholesterol levels to decrease by 22.1%.6 Surprisingly, doses as small as 1 mg of policosanol per day for the same 24-week period had a significant impact on total cholesterol levels as well, resulting in a 16.4% decrease. By comparison, total blood cholesterol levels in the control group increased by 5.2%. This study clearly demonstrated the benefit of policosanol treatment in patients with high cholesterol levels.

Extremely high doses of policosanol have been used in laboratory settings to establish that it is safe and well tolerated. For example, at the huge dose of 50 mg per kg of body weight (1700 times the level suggested for human use) for a period of 6 months, the organ pathology (microscopic structure) of the policosanol-treated animals was similar to that observed in placebo-treated control animals.7 Because liver damage is the most typical result of ingesting foreign compounds, regardless of whether they are natural or synthetic, it was especially noteworthy that there was no change to the liver. This finding is in direct contrast to those for the drugs simvastatin and lovastatin, in which liver and stomach damage was noted when the drugs were administered long-term at equivalent doses of 50mg/kg in rats.

The effects of D-003 were investigated on a cellular and molecular level (as opposed to the tissue level noted above), with equally impressive results. There was no evidence that D-003 induced damage to DNA or otherwise evoked a toxic response in the cell when rats were given large doses of it (5-500 mg/kg of body weight) for 90 days.3 Together, these results indicate that the small amounts recommended for human use are safe and well-tolerated.

Policosanol packs a powerful one-two punch to combat the risk of heart disease: it lowers cholesterol levels, and it inhibits lipid oxidation in the blood. Both of these factors help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Policosanol comes from Hawaiian sugar cane, which contains a high proportion of the active ingredient octacosanol.

Remember, blood is the liquid of life. Do your part to make sure it flows freely.


  1. National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults. Executive summary of the third report (Adult Treatment Panel III). JAMA 2001;285:2486-97.
  2. American Heart Association. www.americanheart.org/statistics/biostats/bioch/htm.
  3. Gamez R, Gonzalez JE, Rodeiro I, et al. In vivo genotoxic evaluation of D-003, a mixture of very long chain aliphatic acids. J Med Food 2001;4:85-91.
  4. Molina V, Valdez S, Carbajal D, et al. Antioxidant effect of D-002 on gastric mucosa of rats with experimentally induced injury. J Med Food 2001;4:79-83.
  5. Menendez R, Mas R, Illnait J, et al. Effects of D-002 on lipid peroxidation in older subjects. J Med Food 2001;4:71-7.
  6. Pons P, Jimenez A, Rodriguez M, et al. Effects of policosanol in elderly hypercholesterolemic patients. Curr Ther Res 1993;53:265-9.
  7. Gamez R, Aleman CL, Mas R, et al. A 6-month study on the toxicity of high doses of policosanol orally administered to Sprague-Dawley rats. J Med Food 2001;4:57-65.

Featured Product

FREE Subscription

  • You're just getting started! We have published thousands of scientific health articles. Stay updated and maintain your health.

    It's free to your e-mail inbox and you can unsubscribe at any time.
    Loading Indicator