Life Extension Magazine February 2002
Policosanol improves blood flow
Intermittent claudication is a disease characterized by severe occlusion of the arterial system in the lower part of the body.
A study published in the journal Angiology investigated the long-term effects of policosanol administered to patients with moderately severe intermittent claudication. The study consisted of a six-week single-blind, placebo-controlled run-in phase, followed by a two-year double-blind, randomized treatment step. Patients were randomized to receive placebo or policosanol (10 mg twice daily). Walking distances on a treadmill were assessed before and after 6, 12, 18 and 24 months of treatment. After six months of therapy, policosanol significantly increased the initial claudication distance by an average of 36% and the absolute claudication distance by an average of 42%. There were no improvements in the placebo group.
In the policosanol group, the beneficial effects improved after long-term therapy, so that final values showed an average of 62% improvement in the initial claudication distance and 66% in the absolute claudication distance, both significantly greater than those obtained in the placebo group. Policosanol, but not placebo, significantly increased the ankle/arm pressure index. In addition, from month six up to study completion, the frequency of patients reporting improvement of lower limb symptoms was greater in the policosanol group than in the placebo group. The treatment was tolerated well. Eight patients in the placebo group experienced a total of 10 serious adverse events, 8 of which were vascular events, compared with none in the policosanol group.
While intermittent claudication is one of the most severe occlusive arterial diseases, the aging process itself results in diminished circulation throughout the body, indicating a significant potential benefit of policosanol to normal aging humans in addition to cholesterol reduction.
Heart attack and stroke have been associated with high levels of a type of cholesterol known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) (“bad” cholesterol) and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) (“good” cholesterol). Reversing these trends can lower the risk for these and other artery-related diseases.
Policosanol is a dietary supplement that can normalize cholesterol as well or better than drugs, without side effects. Efficacy and safety have been proven in numerous clinical trials, and it has been used by millions of people in other countries. Policosanol lowers LDL-cholesterol and raises protective HDL-cholesterol. This compares favorably with cholesterol-lowering drugs which have the drawback of side effects such as liver dysfunction and muscle atrophy. Policosanol is free of these side effects.
What makes policosanol exciting is that it has other actions against heart disease in addition to lowering cholesterol. Like statin drugs, policosanol helps stop the formation of artery lesions. This was proven in studies on rabbits fed a diet designed to create high cholesterol:
One of policosanol’s important actions is to inhibit the oxidation of LDL. Oxidized LDL is dangerous. It promotes the destruction of blood vessels by creating a chronic inflammatory response. Oxidized LDL can also provoke metalloproteinase enzymes. These enzymes promote blood vessel destruction, partly by interfering with HDL’s protective effect. Studies show that rats treated with policosanol have fewer foam cells, reflecting less inflammatory response causing less blood vessel destruction.[19,20]
Another action of policosanol is to reduce the proliferation of cells on the lining of the arteries. Healthy arteries are lined with a smooth layer of cells so that blood can race through with no resistance. One of the features of diseased arteries is that this layer becomes thick and overgrown with cells. As the artery narrows, blood flow slows down or is blocked completely. Policosanol was tested for its ability to stop the proliferation of these cells. According to the results, policosanol’s ability to stop cell overgrowth “is in agreement with the antiproliferative effects reported for other lipid-lowering drugs, such as most of the statins.”
Policosanol also inhibits the formation of clots, and may work synergistically with aspirin in this respect. In a comparison of aspirin and policosanol, aspirin was better at reducing one type of platelet aggregation (clumping together of blood cells). But policosanol was better at inhibiting another type. Together, policosanol and aspirin worked better than either alone.[23,24] A related effect is that significant reductions in the level of thromboxane occur in humans after two weeks of policosanol.25 Thromboxane is a blood vessel-constricting agent that contributes to abnormal platelet aggregation that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
Those who have elevated LDL-cholesterol (over 100) or low HDL-cholesterol (under 50) should seek to protect themselves from the number one killer of Americans (cardiovascular disease). Some people can achieve optimal cholesterol levels via dietary modification, while others require intervention with dietary supplements like policosanol or prescription drugs.
1. Wall Street Journal Nov 21, 2001, page A1. Page One Feature, “Auto Industry Faces Effects of Price Pressure As Economists Debate Possibility of Deflation,” by Norihiko Shirouzu and Jon E. Hilsenrath, Staff Reporters of the Wall Street Journal.