Policosanol is the generic name for a mixture of long chain alcohols derived naturally from plant waxes. These fatty alcohols are derived from plants like sugar cane, yams, wheat germ and bees wax as well. Octacosanol and Triacontanol are the two main alcohols found in Policosanol, however there are several others in smaller quantities.
This supplement has many roles to play in the process of lipid metabolism in our body. It is used as a nutritional supplement that can help reduce the “bad” lipid in our body known as LDL. It also has a role in increasing the “good” lipid in our body known as HDL cholesterol. This way it is thought to help prevent diseases like coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis and stroke.
An important advantage of using this supplement is that it is safe and well-tolerated in people who use other concomitant medications. Studies have revealed that in regular individual with high blood cholesterol or in diabetics, it can work in a sinilar way to statin drugs. These are lipid lowering drugs which include simvastatin, pravastatin or lovastatin.
It also has a specific mode of action. There are three ways by which this substance decreases blood cholesterol:
Firstly, it decreases cholesterol synthesis in the liver. It acts by modulating the activity of an important enzyme in the pathway of cholesterol synthesis known as HMG-CoA reductase. This way it reduces the amount of cholesterol synthesized by our liver. This way less cholesterol will spill out into the bloodstream.
It also increases the breakdown of “bad” fat or LDL cholesterol. It does this by interfering with the pathway of bile acid recycling. Bile production by the liver requires cholesterol. Policosanol inhibits bile acid absorption. This way it shunts the LDL present in our body to be utilised in the pathway of bile acid synthesis hence reducing cholesterol level in blood.
Further, it works by altering platelet function. Its primary role is in the inhibition of platelet aggregation. It decreases the stickiness of platelets present in the blood stream hence reducing the formation of blood clots. Because policosanol decreases the process of blood clotting other medicines like aspirin or naproxen which interfere with the clotting process should be avoided with its use.
Policosanol is commonly used for conditions of the heart, blood vessels or even intermittent claudication in the legs. It may be of benefit in conditions like high blood cholesterol, an inherited condition called familial hypercholesterolemia and coronary heart disease. Studies have even revealed an improvement in lipid profile even in healthy individuals. It is also commonly used to decrease blood LDL levels in diabetics and post menopausal individuals. Diabetics have a higher level of blood LDL and lower levels of blood HDL which predisposes them to heart diseases and stroke.
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