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Altern Med Rev. 2002 Jun;7(3):203-17.

Policosanol: a new treatment for cardiovascular disease?


Policosanol is a mixture of alcohols isolated and purified from sugar cane. Recently, Cuban researchers found 5-20 mg daily of policosanol to be effective at improving serum lipid profiles. Policosanol is believed to decrease total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) by inhibiting cholesterol synthesis and increasing LDL processing. Lipid profile improvements are seen in healthy volunteers, patients with type II hypercholesterolemia, type 2 diabetics with hypercholesterolemia, postmenopausal women with hypercholesterolemia, and patients with combined hypercholesterolemia and abnormal liver function tests. Additionally, policosanol has performed equal to or better than simvastatin, pravastatin, lovastatin, probucol, or acipimox with fewer side effects in patients with type II hypercholesterolemia. Policosanol also decreases several other risk factors of cardiovascular disease by decreasing LDL oxidation, platelet aggregation, endothelial damage, and smooth muscle cell proliferation. Furthermore, policosanol decreases progression and increases regression of cardiovascular disease assessed by thallium-labeled myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (TL-MPS) and Doppler-ultrasound, and decreases symptoms of cardiovascular disease assessed by the Specific Activity Scale. In post-marketing studies, only 0.31 percent of patients have had adverse events. Furthermore, in animal toxicity studies doses up to 1500 times normal human doses (on the basis of body weight) have shown no negative effects on carcinogenesis, reproduction, growth, and development. However, despite the positive research on policosanol on Cubans, policosanol produced in Cuba is not available in the United States, and only Cuban subjects have been studied. Further research is needed to determine if the same effects will be obtained in U.S. populations with non-Cuban produced policosanol.

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