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Policosanol: Lower Cholesterol Without the Hazards of Toxic Statin Drugs

Have your read about the study concerning the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin®?

It showed that people with high genetic risk for heart disease were helped no more by Vytorin than people taking the statin drug Zocor®, one of Vytorin’s two ingredients. The embarrassment to Vytorin’s two joint manufacturers, Merck and Schering-Plough, was compounded by the fact the study was completed in April 2006 but the negative results were not released for nearly two years. Why the delay? Well, Vytorin sales were about $2 billion in the same time period, but then big drug companies would never withhold negative information about their products just to increase their profits, now would they?

Once again, the integrity of Big Pharma and the FDA is called into question and natural cholesterol-controlling alternatives like policosonal are overshadowed by the hoopla and hype. But in light of the Vytorin debate, you might do well to educate yourself a bit more on both the pros and cons of statin drugs, as well as the benefits of policosonal. Read on so that you can make the best decision for your long-term heart health.

The truth about statins

When your doctor orders a blood lipid panel and discovers that your cholesterol levels are too high for comfort, there’s a good chance you’ll be put on a cholesterol-lowering medication such as bile acid sequestrants (WelChol®, Questran® and Colestid®) or HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) (Lipator®, Crestor®, Pravachol® and Zocor) or their generic counterparts, (lovastatin, pravastatin and simvastain). These drugs block the production of cholesterol in the liver itself. They lower LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, and have a mild effect in raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol.

According to Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, statins are among the most widely prescribed medicines in the world.[ref1} They are used to treat high cholesterol and heart disease. Their use has increased sharply in recent years. Between 10% and 15% of people aged 20 and older in the U.S. now take a statin, and 1 in 4 people age 65 and older do. They are also very expensive … and they’re not without risk. “These new lipid drugs continue to be expensive,” says Dr. Francis Solano Jr., president and chief medical officer of Community Medicine Inc. in Pittsburgh. “Statins can be around $60 to $130 per month.” 2

How do statins work?

Statins all work by the same mechanism: they inhibit a liver enzyme called HMG CoA reductase that enables the liver to make cholesterol. The liver is the body’s main source of cholesterol. But when the liver can not make its own, it removes cholesterol from the blood to fulfill your body’s other needs for cholesterol. Ideally, blood levels of cholesterol decrease, which reduces the tendency for arteries to become clogged with fatty deposits. However, liver damage is not unheard of with the use of statins and before a doctor can prescribe a statin drug the patient needs to have a blood test to check for proper liver function.

Statin side effects

Statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs, like most pharmaceuticals, can result in serious side effects. In a clinical advisory issued a few years ago, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute warned doctors about possible serious adverse effects and factors that could increase the risk of statin caused muscle disorders known as myopathies.

Myopathies range from mild muscle pains called myalgias, to a severe condition called rhabdomyolysis, which can be life threatening. But here again, the drug companies’ clinical trial results differ from what doctors are finding in real patients in the real world. While the clinical trials suggest myalgia to occur in 1 to 5 percent of the people taking statins, Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Gerald Gau has stated “in my office, I would guess, it’s closer to 10 percent to 15 percent of patients, maybe more.” 3

Now if you extrapolate those percentages to the 13.1 million statin prescriptions written per month here in the United States4, then you have nearly 2 million people walking around with unnecessary myalgia muscle pain caused by statin drugs!

Other symptoms and side effects vary depending on what type of cholesterol drug is being taken, for more statin side effects see side bar The Side Effects of Statins.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Consider this metaphor: You’re flying an airplane and one of the gauges indicates that the airplane is going down rapidly and that you’re going to plunge to the ground in minutes. You pull out your handgun and shoot the gauge, destroying not only the gauge but causing damage to other electrical equipment. There! Problem solved, right? Obviously not.

The situation with statin drugs is strikingly similar yet apparently this isn’t obvious to the conventional medical system. Cholesterol is just a risk factor, one of many. Sure, you’d like to see that high reading come down, but—and here is the most important message of this article—you want that reading to come down for the right reasons. You want your cholesterol to come down as a result of an overall improvement in your health.

And here is where policosanol comes in … it is a safe, natural substance that improves overall health … and cholesterol readings!

What is Policosanol?

Policosanol is a complex of natural phytochemicals from sugar cane, whose main component is octacosanol. Policosanol has been studied extensively for the past 10 years and several human trials have been published in medical journals in North America and throughout the world. The majority of clinical trials on humans have clearly demonstrated that policosanol is safe, effective and without side effects.

“So the source of the policosonal is critical. If you do decide to control your cholesterol with policosonal—and after you see the studies you very well might—be sure you purchase only policosonal made by a reputable manufacturer utilizing sugar cane wax.”

Policosanol is actually not one thing, but a generic name for a highly concentrated and standardized group of eight natural phytochemicals that occur together naturally in sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum) wax. Although there are a few different forms of policosanol (rice and beeswax), it is important to note that the results from the clinical trials were obtained using ONLY the policosanol derived from sugar cane wax.

Furthermore, the ratio of these eight compounds varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even from batch to batch from the same manufacturer. And while each of these compounds has been studied individually, none of them have the same effect as the group.

So the source of the policosonal is critical. If you do decide to control your cholesterol with policosonal—and after you see the studies you very well might—be sure you purchase only policosonal made by a reputable manufacturer utilizing sugar cane wax. The rest are just cheap imitations and you very well might be wasting your money and risking your health.

The studies on policosanol are extremely impressive—and you’ll see why. Most of them have been done in Cuba and since Cuban researchers are still working on getting the word out through scientific publications and peer-reviewed journals, policosanol has yet to become a household word like statins—which is why we’re so pleased to be at the forefront of bringing this information to you.

How does policosanol work?

Because of the way that statin drugs work, they all have significant dose-related toxicity. If they inhibit the cholesterol-producing enzyme too much they can cause a variety of dangerous side effects. There is also growing concern among some scientists that statin drugs may have unknown long-term side effects, due to their mechanism of action in lowering cholesterol.

Amazingly, policosanol has shown itself to be as effective as statin drugs for many of their varied beneficial effects WITHOUT showing any toxic effects. This is believed to be due to their different ways of helping control cholesterol levels. While statin drugs directly inhibit the cholesterol-producing enzyme, policosanol instead seems to regulate the production of the enzyme to lower, more favorable levels.56 Policosanol also enhances our body’s ability to remove and process LDL cholesterol from the blood and cells.7

Policosonal has been proven safe!

Unlike statins, which become increasingly toxic with higher doses, policosanol achieves its maximum effect at very low doses and taking more is neither more effective nor more toxic. In fact, policosanol has undergone unusually extensive testing for a dietary supplement to prove its safety. In Animal toxicity studies, doses up to 1,500 times the normal human dose (on the basis of body weight) have shown no negative effects on carcinogenesis,89 reproduction, growth, and development,1011 including a study on three generations of rats.12

“Research on policosanol has provided evidence that it too can dramatically prevent, slow down, or even reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease.”161718

In studies where it has been given to animals in mega doses, no drug-related toxicity was shown, and there was no negative effect on the animals (including body weight gain, food consumption and blood biochemistry) when compared with the control group.131415

Stops cardiovascular disease in its tracks

One of the good things that can be said about statin therapy is its ability to slow down or even reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease. This is often seen independent of the reduction in blood cholesterol levels. Research on policosanol has provided evidence that it too can dramatically prevent, slow down, or even reverse the progression of cardiovascular disease.161718

Here are some highlights of the dozens of studies that have been published:

A team of German scientists reviewed the literature on placebo-controlled lipid-lowering studies using policosanol published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as studies investigating its mechanism of action and its clinical pharmacology. This is what they found: At doses of 10 to 20 mg per day, policosanol lowers total cholesterol by 17% to 21% and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 21% to 29% and raises high-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 8% to 15%.19

Cuban researchers found 5-20 mg daily of policosanol to be effective at improving serum lipid profiles2021  by:

  • Decreasing total cholesterol
  • Decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol
  • Increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol
  • Decreasing triglycerides

Policosanol was given to a large variety of patients with single health complaints and different combinations of disease. The outstanding common experience they all shared is this: ALL had improved lipid profiles after they took policosanol. Policosanol has been tested on:

  • Healthy volunteers
  • Patients with:
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Type 2 hypercholesterimia (an inherited genetic condition that results in elevated LDL levels beginning at birth, and possible heart attacks at an early age)
  • Hypertension and high cholesterol
  • Both high cholesterol and abnormal liver function tests
  • Coronary patients
  • Postmenopausal women with high cholesterol

    Postmenopausal women have excellent results

    When policosonal was tested on postmenopausal women who had high cholesterol the results were equally impressive. Fifty-six women were divided into two groups. One took a placebo and the other took 5 mg of policosanol for eight weeks. For the second eight weeks, the dosage was elevated to 10 mg of policosanol.

    Not only was policosanol safe and well tolerated by the women, when it was compared to the women’s baseline and the placebo group at both dosages of 5 and 10 mg a day it significantly:

    • Decreased LDL-cholesterol 17.3% and 26.7%, respectively
    • Decreased total cholesterol by 12.9% and 19.5%
    • Decreased the ratios of LDL-cholesterol to high-density lipoprotein (HDL)-cholesterol by 17.2% and 26.5%
    • Decreased total cholesterol to HDL-cholesterol by 16.3% and 21.0%
    • Raised HDL-cholesterol levels by 7.4% at the end of the study. No significant changes occurred in the lipid profile of the placebo group.22

     

    A cholesterol primer: total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, Triglycerides

    Cholesterol is carried in blood in the form of substances called lipoproteins. Cardiovascular risk can be assessed by measuring total blood cholesterol, as well as the proportions of the different types of lipoproteins.

    1) Total cholesterol is the most common measure of blood cholesterol and the only number many people get from their doctor. Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood. A total cholesterol reading less than 200 mg/dL means a lower risk of heart disease, which everyone should try to attain. A reading of 200-239 is borderline high cholesterol, and 240 and over is high cholesterol.

    Lipoproteins

    2) HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, helps carry cholesterol out of the body, including cholesterol deposited inside blood vessels, where it may block the flow of blood. If there is too much cholesterol for the HDLs to pick up, or an inadequate supply of HDLs, cholesterol may aggregate into plaque groups that block arteries. Those blockages are the main cause of heart attacks. Remember that higher is healthier. A reading of less than 40 is low, at or greater than 60 is high, and having a level of 60 or greater is considered a “negative” risk factor that can offset another risk factor.

    3) LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol, hauls cholesterol from the liver to all cells in the body. Remember that lower is healthier. A reading of less than 100 is optimal; 100-129 is near or above optimal; 130-159, borderline high; 160-189, high; 190 or greater is very high.

    Rule of thumb:
    You want to raise (Heighten) your HDL and Lower your LDL.

    4) Triglycerides make up most of the body’s fat, and are the storehouse for energy. Edible oils from seeds, egg yolk and animal fats also are composed mainly of triglycerides. They may not be as corrosive as LDL, but excess triglycerides exacerbate heart disease potential when they oxidize and damage artery linings or induce blood cells to clump. A reading of under 100 is optimal; under 200 is normal; 200-400 is borderline high; over 400 is high.

    When high triglycerides and low HDL occur together, the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, heart and kidney failure and other degenerative diseases increase. In fact, another up-and-coming index of heart disease risk is your triglyceride-to-HDL ratio. A ratio of less than 2 is considered good.

    The best ways to lower your triglyceride levels are to reduce your intake of carbohydrates, especially sugar and starch foods; and take a high-quality fish oil product.

    Policosanol reduces blood lipids in older patients with type II hypercholesterolemia and high coronary risk

    There’s no doubt that patients with type II hypercholsterolemia (an inherited genetic condition that results in elevated LDL levels beginning at birth, and may result in heart attacks at an early age), have a very difficult time living without the fear of heart attack or stroke. In one Cuban study, after 6 weeks on a lipid-lowering diet, 179 older patients randomly received a placebo or policosanol at doses of 5 mg followed by 10 mg per day for successive 12-week periods of each dose.

    The results? policosanol (5 and 10 mg/d):

    • Reduced low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 16.9% and 24.4%, respectively
    • Reduced total cholesterol by 12.8% and 16.2%
    • Significantly increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) by 14.6% and 29.1%

    Policosanol, but not the placebo, significantly improved overall cardiovascular health and stamina in these patients, and there were no adverse side effects!23

    Other studies which tested tolerability and effectiveness of policosanol on patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia24, patients with hypertension and type II hypercholesterolaemia, with hypercholesterolemia and noninsulin dependent diabetes, all had similar excellent results.

    Policosanol outperforms most cholesterol-lowering drugs

    In fact, policosanol performed better than or equal to other cholesterol-lowering drugs, including Simvastatin, Pravastatin, Lovastatin, Probucol and Acipimox with fewer side effects. Daily doses of 10 mg of policosanol have been shown to be equally effective in lowering total or LDL cholesterol as the same dose of Simvastatin or Pravastatin. 27

    Is more effective than lovastatin in diabetics

    Policosanol at 10 mg/day is more effective in normalizing HDL-cholesterol and has a better safety and tolerability profile than lovastatin at 20 mg/day in patients with high cholesterol and non-insulin dependent diabetes.25

    Benefits beyond lowering cholesterol

    Although scientists still don’t know exactly how policosanol works, study after study has shown it to decrease several other risk factors of cardiovascular disease:

    • LDL oxidation26
    • Platelet aggregation27
    • Endothelial damage28
    • It also helps diminish the symptoms of intermittent claudication (peripheral arterial disease), a potentially disabling condition characterized by attacks of pain or fatigue in the calf, thigh, or buttock.29

    Treadmill test is easier with policosanol!

    If you’re a heart patient, you’ve already endured the dreaded treadmill test. And if you’ve never taken it, you’ve probably heard about it. There was actually a study done following 45 heart patients with myocardial ischemia to see how policosanol would affect their treadmill performance. The groups that took policosanol for a 20-month period did significantly better on their treadmill tests than the group that took a placebo—due to an improvement in their myocardial ischemia—and they also had improved lipid profiles.30

    Prevention is the best cure

    Abnormal cholesterol levels are one of the causes of atherosclerosis, which diminishes the supply of blood to the heart and eventually leads to heart attacks. Atherosclerosis affects blood vessels throughout your body and also contributes to angina (chest pain), intermittent claudication (pain caused by blockage of arteries in the legs), and stroke.

    According to the guidelines set by the Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults31, the best things you can do for reducing heart disease is to:

    1. Cut your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol
    2. Reduce your consumption of carbohydrates
    3. Exercise more
    4. Control your weight

    Reduce cholesterol with policosanol and see the amazing results!

    Now it’s easier than ever to control your blood cholesterol with policosanol! It’s safe, natural, and inexpensive. But be sure you are purchasing a policosonal product made from sugar cane wax, that’s the only type that has been proven to have cholesterol-lowering benefits. And be sure the manufacturer stands behind their product with a money-back guarantee, so you can be sure they believe in the product they are selling. There are just too many poor-quality policosonal products on the market today, so protect yourself. But if you do purchase a high-quality policosonal product, you can bet you’ve found a healthly, natural alternative to dangerous and toxic statin drugs.

    References

    1. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, 2006.
    2. abcnews.go.com/sections./living/ DailyNews/zetia021029.html.
    3. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/statin-drugs/CL00035.
    4. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, 2006.
    5. Menendez R, Amor AM, Rodeiro I, et al. Policosanol modulates HMG-CoA reductase activity in cultured fibroblasts. Arch Med Res 2001 Jan-Feb;32(1):8-12.
    6. Menendez R, Amor AM, Gonzalez RM, Fraga V, Mas R.  Effect of policosanol on the hepatic cholesterol biosynthesis of normocholesterolemic rats. Biol Res 1996;29(2):253-7.
    7. Menendez R, Fernandez SI, Del Rio A, et al. Policosanol inhibits cholesterol biosynthesis and enhances low density lipoprotein processing in cultured human fibroblasts. Biol Res 1994.
    8. Aleman CL, Puig MN, Elias EC, Ortega CH, Guerra IR, Ferreiro RM, Brinis F. Carcinogenicity of policosanol in mice: an 18-month study. Food Chem Toxicol 1995 Jul;33(7):573-8.
    9. Aleman CL, Mas Ferreiro R, Noa Puig M, Rodeiro Guerra I, Hernandez Ortega C, Capote A. Carcinogenicity of policosanol in Sprague Dawley rats: a 24 month study. Teratog Carcinog Mutagen 1994;14(5):239-49.
    10. Janikula M. Policosanol: a new treatment for cardiovascular disease?Altern Med Rev 2002 Jun;7(3):203-17.
    11. Rodriguez MD, Garcia H. Evaluation of peri- and post-natal toxicity of Policosanol in rats. Teratog Carcinog Mutagen 1998;18(1):1-7.
    12. Rodriguez MD, Sanchez M, Garcia H. Multigeneration reproduction study of policosanol in rats. Toxicol Lett 1997 Feb 7;90(2-3):97-106.
    13. Rodriguez MD, Sanchez M, Garcia H. Multigeneration reproduction study of policosanol in rats. Toxicol Lett 1997 Feb 7;90(2-3):97-106.
    14. Mesa AR, Mas R, Noa M, Hernandez C, Rodeiro I, Gamez R, Garcia M, Capote A, Aleman CL. Toxicity of policosanol in beagle dogs: one-year study. Toxicol Lett 1994 Aug;73(2):81-90.
    15. Aleman CL, Mas R, Hernandez C, Rodeiro I, Cerejido E, Noa M, Capote A, Menendez R, Amor A, Fraga V, et al. A 12-month study of policosanol oral toxicity in Sprague Dawley rats. Toxicol Lett1994 Jan;70(1):77-87.
    16. Menendez R, Amor AM, Gonzalez RM, Fraga V, Mas R. Effect of policosanol on the hepatic cholesterol biosynthesis of normocholesterolemic rats. Biol Res 1996;29(2):253-7.
    17. Menendez R, Fernandez SI, Del Rio A, et al. Policosanol inhibits cholesterol biosynthesis and enhances low density lipoprotein processing in cultured human fibroblasts. Biol Res 1994.
    18. Janikula M. Policosanol: a new treatment for cardiovascular disease?Altern Med Rev 2002 Jun;7(3):203-17.
    19. Gouni-Berthold I, Berthold HK. Policosanol: clinical pharmacology and therapeutic significance of a new lipid-lowering agent. Am Heart J 2002 Feb;143(2):356-65.
    20. Janikula M. Policosanol: a new treatment for cardiovascular disease? Altern Med Rev 2002 Jun;7(3):203-17.
    21. Castano G, Mas R, Fernandez JC, Fernandez L, Illnait J, Lopez E. Effects of policosanol on older patients with hypertension and type II hypercholesterolaemia. Drugs R D 2002;3(3):159-72.
    22. Mirkin A, Mas R, Martinto M, Boccanera R, Robertis A, Poudes R, Fuster A, Lastreto E, Yanez M, Irico G, McCook B, Farre A. Efficacy and tolerability of policosanol in hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 2001;21(1):31-41.
    23. Castano G, Mas R, Fernandez JC, Illnait J, Fernandez L, Alvarez E. Effects of policosanol in older patients with type II hypercholesterolemia and high coronary risk. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 2001 Mar;56(3):M186-92.
    24. Pons P, Rodriguez M, Robaina C, Illnait J, Mas R, Fernandez L, Fernandez JC. Effects of successive dose increases of policosanol on the lipid profile of patients with type II hypercholesterolaemia and tolerability to treatment. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res 1994;14(1):27-33.
    25. Crespo N, Illnait J, Mas R, Fernandez L, Fernandez J, Castano G. Comparative study of the efficacy and tolerability of policosanol and lovastatin in patients with hypercholesterolemia and noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res1999;19(4):117-27.
    26. Menendez R, Mas R, Amor AM, Gonzalez RM, Fernandez JC, Rodeiro I, Zayas M, Jimenez S. Effects of policosanol treatment on the susceptibility of low density lipoprotein (LDL) isolated from healthy volunteers to oxidative modification in vitro. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2000 Sep;50(3):255-62.
    27. Arruzazabala ML, Molina V, Mas R, Fernandez L, Carbajal D, Valdes S, Castano G. Antiplatelet effects of policosanol (20 and 40 mg/day) in healthy volunteers and dyslipidaemic patients. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol 2002 Oct;29(10):891-7.
    28. Castano G, Mas R, Arruzazabala ML, Noa M, Illnait J, Fernandez JC, Molina V, Menendez A. Effects of policosanol and pravastatin on lipid profile, platelet aggregation and endothelemia in older hypercholesterolemic patients. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res1999;19(4):105-16.
    29. Castano G, Mas Ferreiro R, Fernandez L, Gamez R, Illnait J, Fernandez C. A long-term study of policosanol in the treatment of intermittent claudication. Angiology 2001 Feb;52(2):115-25.
    30. Stusser R, Batista J, Padron R, Sosa F, Pereztol O. Long-term therapy with policosanol improves treadmill exercise-ECG testing performance of coronary heart disease patients. Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther 1998 Sep;36(9):469-73.
    31. JAMA 2001;285:2486–97.

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