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Policosanol Cholesterol Complex
Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is a mix of herbs, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. It is also a cholesterol-lowering agent with broad actions. Although the chief formulation in this supplement is policosanol, there are other effective cholesterol-lowering agents. But how do they work? What is policosanol? How effective is Policosanol Cholesterol Complex? And how safe is this supplement? Read on to find out.
Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is dietary supplement from Source Naturals. It is one of the manufacturer’s product line collectively described as Cholesterol Rescue and produced under its Bio-Aligned brand.
Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is formulated for lowering cholesterol and improving lipid profile.
However, its effect extends to different organs and system. It can help maintain the major organs involved in cholesterol absorption, metabolism and transportation including the gastrointestinal tract, liver, blood vessels and heart.
In addition, the therapeutic effects of the active ingredients of Policosanol Cholesterol Complex extend to the thyroid gland and nervous system.
Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is formulated as tablets. It is supplied in bottles containing 30, 60 or 90 tablets. The recommended dosage of the supplement is 3 tablets daily.
On the label, the manufacturer warns that pregnant and breastfeeding women must consult their health care professionals before taking this supplement.
In addition, those who regularly take blood-thinning medications such as aspirins or anticoagulants or suffer from ulcers, diabetes or liver dysfunction should avoid the supplement.
Policosanol or polycosanol is a dietary supplement made up of natural extract of plant waxes or beeswax.
It is a mixture of long-chain, fatty alcohols obtained from plants such as sugar cane, yams and wheat germ.
The most abundant fatty alcohols in policosanol are octacosanol (60%) and triacontanol. Some of the other alcohols are nonacosanol, heptacosanol and dotriacontanol.
The most common source of policosanol is Cuban sugar cane. Most of the studies investigating the medicinal uses of policosanol are also from Cuba. Given the trade restrictions between the United States and Cuba, most of the policosanol supplements sold in the US are sourced from beeswax and wheat germ.
The policosanol in Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is derived from sugar cane.
As a nutritional supplement, policosanol is intended to lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad”) cholesterol while raising HDL (high-density lipoprotein or “good”) cholesterol. With such benefits, policosanol supplements are believed to help prevent atherosclerosis and reduce the risks of heart disease.
Studies done to investigate the cholesterol-lowering benefits of policosanol have produced conflicting results. For example, while older studies concluded that policosanol did not affect cholesterol levels, newer studies confirmed that policosanol improves lipid profile by lowering LDL cholesterol levels and raising HDL cholesterol.
Most of the positive policosanol studies were conducted by Cuban researchers.
An analysis of positive policosanol studies showed that over 80 double-blind and well-designed studies were conducted by the same group of Cuban researchers sponsored by policosanol patent holders.
In sharp contrast, a study published in the Journal of Medical Association in 2006 failed to find any link between policosanol supplementation and cholesterol levels.
While it is easy to conclude that the Cuban studies were biased and that no independent studies replicated their results, this is not really the case. There are a number of positive policosanol studies conducted and published outside Cuba.
In a 2002 paper published in the American Heart Journal, the authors did a meta-analysis of past reviewed policosanol studies from peer-reviewed journals.
This review confirmed that 10 – 20 mg per day of policosanol
The review also identified that 10 mg per day of policosanol produced the same cholesterol-lowering effect as the same dose of statin drugs such as simvastatin and pravastatin.
The 2002 review also showed that policosanol lowered cholesterol levels by inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the liver. Although this inhibition affects the mevalonate pathway, policosanol does not directly inhibit HMG-CoA reductase, the liver enzyme blocked by statins.
This mechanism of action was further confirmed by a 2006 study published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics by a group of American researchers.
This study also showed that although policosanol did not directly block HMG-CoA reductase, it reduced the activity of the enzyme by 55%.
Another mechanism of action was suggested by a Chinese study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2005. The researchers found out that policosanol can also lower cholesterol levels by promoting the fecal excretion of bile acids.
Bile acids are required for the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. By preventing the reabsorption of bile acids and promoting its excretion, policosanol lowers the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed.
However, this study disproved the old claim that policosanol is also an antioxidant.
The researchers demonstrated that policosanol did not block the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and also did not remove free radicals.
In all these studies, policosanol was well-tolerated and the reported side effects were mild and transient. These side effects include headache, insomnia, constipation, weight loss and skin rash.
Not all the active ingredients of Policosanol Cholesterol Complex affect the absorption and metabolism of cholesterol. Besides policosanol, the other active ingredients that may lower total/LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol are discussed below.
Beta sitosterol is the most popular plant sterol. Like the other sterols, it is structurally similar to cholesterol. Therefore, it competes with cholesterol for absorption and metabolism.
Beta sitosterol reduces the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. Therefore, it promotes the fecal excretion of cholesterol. These actions result in the reduction of total cholesterol level.
In addition, beta sitosterol increases the uptake of LDL cholesterol into the liver. This translates into a reduction in serum LDL levels. To prevent a sharp rise in hepatic (liver) LDL cholesterol, beta sitosterol increases the number of LDL receptors in the liver. With more of these receptors, the breakdown of cholesterol in the liver proceeds at a faster rate.
Therefore, beta sitosterol can lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
Besides its culinary uses and high nutritional value, garlic is also a medicinal plant. It is known for its sulfur compounds such as allin and allicin.
Allicin is the major phytochemical responsible for the cholesterol-lowering properties of garlic.
The garlic extract used in the formulation of Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is standardized by its allicin content (containing 8000 parts per million).
The bioactive sulfur compounds in garlic inhibit HMG-CoA reductase and a few other enzymes involved in the mevalonate pathway. Therefore, garlic blocks cholesterol synthesis.
Besides lowering blood cholesterol levels, garlic can also inhibit the formation of blood clots, lower blood pressure and block the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Turmeric is related to ginger and it is commonly known as a food coloring.
The phytochemical responsible for the deep orange-yellow color of turmeric is curcumin. This is also the major bioactive phytochemical in turmeric and it is responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect of the herb.
Curcumin and other related phytochemicals in turmeric disrupt the absorption and metabolism of cholesterol. For example, curcumin blocks the absorption of cholesterol and increases its excretion along with bile acids.
In addition, turmeric inhibits some of the enzymes involved in cholesterol synthesis in the liver. It also speeds up the breakdown of cholesterol in the liver.
Artichoke is a vegetable that has been proven to lower blood cholesterol. It blocks cholesterol synthesis in the liver by inhibiting the enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase.
In addition, it blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestines by stimulating the excretion of bile acids along with cholesterol.
Artichoke has one the highest antioxidant potentials among plants. This strong antioxidant property has been proven to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and other non-HDL cholesterol. By preventing the oxidation of cholesterol, artichoke can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and improve cardiovascular health.
Green tea is also a rich source of natural antioxidants. The antioxidants in green tea (catechins) can also prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol but they can also lower blood cholesterol.
Green tea catechins only affect the absorption of cholesterol. These catechins disrupt the emulsification and dissolution of dietary cholesterol.
Since these are essential steps in the absorption of cholesterol (and all fats), green tea lowers the amount of cholesterol reaching systemic circulation.
Gum guggul is the yellow sap or gum resin extracted from the mukul myrrh tree. It is also known as guggulipid.
The bioactive phytochemicals in gum guggul are known as guggulsterone. The gum guggul extract in Policosanol Cholesterol Complex contains 10% guggulsterones.
Gum guggul lowers cholesterol by multiple mechanisms. It blocks the absorption of dietary cholesterol; stimulates the body to burn more fat and cholesterol; increase the breakdown of cholesterol in the liver; and block the production of cholesterol in the liver.
Guggulsterones can also improve cardiovascular health by their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Inositol hexanicotinate is a dietary supplement made from 1 molecule of inositol and 6 molecules of nicotinic acid (vitamin B3).
Inositol hexanicotinate is also known as no-flush niacin. It is formulated to slowly release niacin and reduce the nasty side effects (itching, flushing etc.) of nicotinic acid supplements.
While inositol hexanicotinate is meant to lower blood cholesterol, recent studies have shown that it is quite ineffective as a cholesterol-lowering supplement. This is rather strange given that both inositol and nicotinic acid are proven cholesterol-lowering agents.
Roles of the Active Ingredients of Policosanol Cholesterol Complex
Policosanol Cholesterol Complex contains a good number of proven cholesterol-lowering agents including herbs like artichoke and gum guggul and phytochemicals such as beta sitosterol and isoflavones.
However, quite a number of the supplement’s active ingredients do not affect cholesterol level at all.
Active ingredients such as inositol hexanicotinate show that the formulation of Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is rather dated given that new evidence has disclaimed its cholesterol-lowering activity.
In addition, the dose of policosanol (the major active ingredient in the supplement) is rather high.
The daily dose of policosanol from this supplement is 60 mg. Studies have shown that the cholesterol-lowering effect of policosanol remained the same at doses above 10 mg.
In a 2001 study published in the International Journal of Clinical Pharmacology Research, researchers compared the cholesterol-lowering effects of two doses (20 mg/day and 40 mg/day) of policosanol. The results showed that 40 mg/day of policosanol did not produce additional cholesterol-lowering effect over 20 mg/day policosanol.
Even though Policosanol Cholesterol Complex supplies an unneeded high dose of policosanol, different studies have shown that even such a high dose of policosanol is safe and well-tolerated.
Overall, Policosanol Cholesterol Complex is well-reviewed and well-received. About 70% of past users reported that it worked.
The chief complaints about this supplement are its aftertaste, its strong smell and the size of its tablets.
These complaints were significant enough for some users to abandon the supplement. Quite a number of users also confessed to skipping doses because of these complaints.
Therefore, Policosanol Cholesterol Complex can benefit from some review of active ingredients and dosage form. First, inositol hexanicotinate should be removed and the dose of policosanol reduced. Secondly, the tablets should be formulated to mask its taste and smell as well as presented in smaller sizes.
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