Policosanol is a nutritional supplement derived from sugar
cane wax and may be useful to decrease platelet aggregation and claudication.
Policosanol taken alone does not appear to be as useful as when it is used in
combination with other nutrients such as berberine and red yeast rice extract.
Research from Germany published by the Journal of the
American Medical Association in 2006 looked at the supplementation of
policosanol in people with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia.
There were a total of 143 people in the study. The policosanol was given as a
dietary supplement at dosages ranging from 10 mg/day up to 80 mg/day. After
several months, there did not appear to be a benefit on lipid levels from
supplementation at any level.
Another study from a research group in Italy gave
policosanol in combination with berberine and red yeast rice extract. This
study was published by the Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism in
2011. This study followed over 1700 patients with dyslipidemia. Just over half
took the nutritional supplement in combination with a healthy diet. They were
compared with patients treating their dyslipidemia with diet alone. The
proprietary combination supplement appeared to benefit multiple lipid
parameters, including lowering the LDL, raising the HDL, and lowering the
Yet another study from Italy looked at 80 patients with
dyslipidemia. The results were published in Advances in Therapy in 2011. This
study was a randomized, blinded, prospective study that compared a combination
supplement with placebo. This supplement contained policosanol (10 mg), red
yeast rice (200 mg), berberine (500 mg), folic acid, coenzyme Q10, and
astaxanthin. All of the patients previously had been found to be statin
intolerant and unable to take pharmaceutical statin medications for treatment.
This study found that the combination supplement was effective in lowering total
and LDL cholesterol levels.
These studies suggest policosanol in combination with red
yeast rice and berberine may be useful in the treatment of dyslipidemia. These
combination supplements may be better tolerated than statin pharmacotherapy for
Risks and Safety
Like any other medication, consuming policosanol-containing
supplements can result in an allergic reaction in some people, have interaction
effects, and cause transient nausea if taken on an empty stomach. It also
appears to decrease platelet aggregation which should be monitored. For some,
this may be a desirable side effect, like taking an aspirin a day.
Nevertheless, it is recommended to only take policosanol under the supervision
of a doctor to monitor for side effects. Routine blood tests can be
particularly helpful and typically include a lipid panel, liver panel, and
perhaps platelet and clotting studies as well.
Policosanol at low dosages appears to be safe and well
tolerated by the large majority of people. In combination with red yeast rice
and berberine, it has been shown to improve cholesterol levels and may be
better tolerated than pharmaceutical therapy with statins. It is recommended to
work with a doctor when taking policosanol in order to monitor its effects.