Sugar Cane Extract “Policosanol” Puts Toxic Statin 'Heart Drugs' To Shame

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A natural sugar cane extract called policosanol is emerging as a promising alternative or adjunct to statins for lowering cardiovascular disease risk factors like high cholesterol and blood pressure. 

Unlike statins which simply lower LDL levels through unnaturally suppressing the mevalonate pathway in the liver, policosanol enhances 'good' HDL cholesterol levels and function while beneficially preventing the conversion of LDL into the oxidized form known as Ox-LDL, which can have atherogenic particles - more comprehensively addressing multiple layers of root cause imbalances.

 

In a double-blinded clinical trial on healthy middle-aged Japanese adults, 12 weeks of policosanol supplementation significantly lowered systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 7% and 4% respectively compared to placebo. Policosanol also reduced glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) by 4%, indicating improved average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months. Elevated HbA1c causes vascular dysfunction through oxidative stress and inflammation - key drivers of atherosclerosis progression[1]

 

Remarkably, trial subjects were already healthy with optimal baseline LDL (138 mg/dL) and total cholesterol (220 mg/dL). Yet policosanol still boosted HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels by 9.5% over placebo.

 

Analyses of lipid particles revealed beneficial changes underlying this:  

• Decreased oxidation[2] and glycation[3] damage in LDL and  VLDL particles

 

• 15% decrease in VLDL triglyceride content  

 

• 14% reduction in average VLDL size

 

• 6% increase in average LDL size with more normal morphology

Such alterations reduce atherogenicity by decreasing inflammatory LDL particles and increasing large, buoyant HDL - linked to lower cardiovascular risk[4].

 

Beyond quantitative changes, policosanol also enhanced functional properties of HDL including:  

• 1.4 and 1.3-fold increased paraoxonase activity in HDL2 and HDL3 respectively[5]. This antioxidant enzyme inhibits LDL oxidation[6] - a key early event in atherosclerosis[7].

 

• 1.6-fold increased ability of HDL3 to reduce oxidized substrates, indicating enhanced antioxidant capacity[8].  

 

• Stronger embryo protection (in a zebrafish model) from induced inflammation/toxicity, confirming improved HDL innate bioactivities[9].

This aligns with previous findings that policosanol gets incorporated into HDL particles in circulation, thereby upgrading their beneficial functions[10].  

 

In contrast, most statins show mixed effects on HDL and some even worsen HDL anti-inflammatory capacity according to a 2018 meta-analysis[11]. Moreover, no currently approved pharmacotherapy directly enhances HDL function and antioxidant potential like policosanol

 

Alongside benefits on blood pressure, sugar metabolism, cholesterol parameters and HDL function, Cuban sugar cane derived policosanol achieved another feat where long term statin therapy fails.

 

 

It lowered liver enzyme markers of inflammation and injury like ALT and AST by up to 17% - indicating a protective, anti-inflammatory effect on the liver.

 

Statins on the other hand have an infamous track record of causing drug-induced liver injury ranging from asymptomatic elevation in liver enzymes to life-threatening hepatitis[12]. Their mechanisms of action and metabolic consequences are often not liver-friendly long-term. 

 

Beyond the liver, statins have been associated with over 300 adverse effects[13] spanning from muscle problems and diabetes to cognitive impairment and neurological diseases. Policosanol on the other hand has a 25-year track record of excellent safety without any serious side effects reported in trials or post-marketing surveillance.

 

As the global burden of cardiovascular disease continues rising, safe multi-modal alternatives to high risk pharmaceuticals like statins warrant expedited consideration.

 

How Does Policosanol Compare to Statins Like Lipitor?

 

Policosanol compares very favorably to popular statin drugs like atorvastatin (Lipitor) in several ways:

 

Efficacy:  

 

  • While statins like Lipitor excel at lowering LDL cholesterol, policosanol additionally lowers blood pressure, blood sugar, and liver inflammation while boosting HDL cholesterol and function. This more comprehensively improves multiple cardiovascular risk factors.

  • Head-to-head trials found policosanol matches statins' cholesterol lowering capacity. A 2003 study on diabetic dyslipidemia patients found 10mg policosanol daily lowered LDL just as effectively as 20mg simvastatin (Zocor)[14]. Another trial found 10mg policosanol decreased LDL and total cholesterol to a similar degree as 10mg atorvastatin[15].

 

  • However, unlike statins, policosanol boosts levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol while beneficially enhancing HDL's antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and cholesterol transport capacities[3]. This is a key differentiation, as low HDL and poor HDL function are independent CVD risk factors[4]

 

Safety and Side Effects:

 

  • No concerning adverse effects have been reported with policosanol despite over 25 years of use, extensive trials and post-marketing surveillance. A comprehensive review found policosanol “devoid of significant drug interactions and adverse effects” at doses up to 40mg daily[16].  

 

  • In contrast, every statin on the market lists side effects like muscle damage, liver injury, diabetes and neurological diseases. Post-marketing data shows over 300 potential adverse effects linked to statins[13]. Up to 20% of statin users experience muscle problems[17] and 75% have abnormal liver enzyme elevations[18].

 

Cost and Accessibility:  

 

  • As a natural compound, sugar cane derived policosanol is far more affordable than patented drugs like atorvastatin. Typical supplemental doses of 10-20mg policosanol can cost under $10 a month. 

 

  • Lipitor on the other hand costs around $150 monthly without insurance coverage[19]. While generics have reduced cost, patent protection enabled high pricing for decades. As a nutritional supplement, policosanol is also more broadly accessible.

 

In summary, head-to-head trials demonstrate sugar cane extract policosanol matches and even exceeds statins for improving cholesterol profiles and cardiovascular risk factors. It delivers similar efficacy to Lipitor and Zocor at normal doses of 10-20mg daily. Meanwhile policosanol boasts a pristine safety record over 25 years. For cost and accessibility, this natural plant compound has major advantages over patented drugs as an option for elevated cholesterol and cardiovascular protection.

 

Learn More on the Topics in this Article

 

To learn more about policosanol's health benefits, visit our database here

To learn more about how to beneficially modulate cholesterol levels, visit our LDL cholesterol lowering database

To learn more about the harms of statin drugs, visit our database on the subject here.

To learn about the dangers of low cholesterol, visit our article on the topic here


 

References  

 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3668763/   

[2] Cho et al. 2023

[3] Cho et al. 2023  

[4] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIR.0000000000000278  

[5] Cho et al. 2023

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10889161/  

[7] https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/atvbaha.108.173898

[8] Cho et al. 2023

[9] Cho et al. 2023

[10] https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/19/1/59

[11] https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/2/196 

[12] https://aasldpubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hep.26487  

[13] www.greenmedinfo.com/toxic-ingredient/statin-drugs

[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12859895/

[15] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15019971/   

[16] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453610/

[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16174292/

[18] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8875519/ 

[19] https://www.goodrx.com/lipitor

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