Natural and Alternative Treatment Study Report: Policosanol for High Cholesterol? Maybe Not.
by Steven Bratman, MD
Policosanol is a mixture of related waxy substances manufactured from sugarcane, wheat germ, or beeswax. Sugarcane policosanol is the best-known form. Numerous studies enrolling a total of thousands of people reportedly found that sugarcane policosanol can substantially improve cholesterol profile. Not only was it reportedly more effective than placebo, it also proved just as effective as standard drugs in the statin family.
On the basis of this research, policosanol was approved in many countries as a treatment for high cholesterol. However, a close examination of the evidence shows that all positive studies of policosanol were performed and reported by a single Cuban research group; furthermore, that group possessed a close financial relationship with the product. Until recently, no independent research groups had tested sugarcane policosanol, in part due to legal obstacles. In 2006, however, three entirely independent studies of sugarcane policosanol were finally reported: each one failed to find any benefit.
The Bottom Line: There’s a very good chance policosanol doesn’t do anything. Let the buyer beware.
Berthold HK, Unverdorben S, Degenhardt R, et al. Effect of policosanol on lipid levels among patients with hypercholesterolemia or combined hyperlipidemia: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2006;295:2262-9.
Dulin MF, Hatcher LF, Sasser HC, et al. Policosanol is ineffective in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr . 2006;84:1543-8.
Kassis AN, Jones PJ. Lack of cholesterol-lowering efficacy of Cuban sugarcane policosanols in hypercholesterolemic persons. Am J Clin Nutr . 2006;84:1003-8.
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