BONN, GERMANY. High cholesterol levels are a potent risk factor for death from heart disease. It is estimated that a decrease of 10 per cent in cholesterol levels corresponds to a 13 per cent decrease in coronary heart disease mortality. It is also estimated that about 5.5 million Americans ought to be treated for high cholesterol levels, but that only a small proportion actually receives treatment. One of the main reasons for this is that people are becoming increasingly leery of long-term treatment involving powerful drugs with the potential for serious and often fatal adverse events. Recent reports of deaths caused by statins and their cousins have heightened this concern.
A group of researchers from the University of Bonn now report that policosanol, a natural product, is as effective as the statins and much safer. The researchers reviewed 21 clinical trials of policosanol and found that at dosages of 10 to 20 mg/day (taken with the evening meal) it lowered total cholesterol by 17 to 21 per cent, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" kind) by 21 to 29 per cent, and raised high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" kind) by 8 to 15 per cent. Daily dosages of 10 mg were found to be as effective as 10 mg doses of simvastatin (Zocor) and pravastatin (Pravachol). All studies showed that policosanol is safe in dosages up to 20 mg/day taken long-term. Policosanol was found to be particularly effective in people with type 2 diabetes. It was noted that it did not increase triglyceride, glucose or hemoglobin (Hb)A1 levels in diabetics. A study of patients with hypertension showed that policosanol could lower systolic blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg. Another study found that 20 mg/day of it was highly beneficial for patients with intermittent claudication.
Policosanol is a natural mixture of aliphatic long-chain alcohols isolated from purified sugar cane. The
German researchers conclude that, "policosanol is in our opinion a fascinating new agent for the prevention
and treatment of atherosclerotic disease."