Policosanol is a natural plant wax, which has well-documented health benefits for the treatment of cholesterol (it raises high density cholesterol and lowers low density cholesterol, which is exactly what is needed for anyone suffering from medical cholesterol problems or atherosclerosis). It contains about 60% octacosanol (a long chain polymer). Despite great popularity in Cuba, where it is used as a general health tonic with anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits as well as for its cholesterol lowering properties, until very recently policosanol was relatively unknown in the wider world.
This may be for political and trade embargo reasons, reflecting relations between Cuba and the US… however policosanol has come to greater worldwide awareness recently following the publication of Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Body book in 2010, in which he launched the slow carb diet program and its recommended accompaniment the PAGG supplement stack. In the PAGG stack policosanol is combined with alpha-lipoic acid, aged garlic extracts, and green tea flavanols (ECGC) to create a safe and natural fat-burning cocktail that significantly enhances body recomposition efforts compared to dieting alone.
The only strange thing is that weight loss through policosanol has not been exploited before. Indeed, weight loss was first reported as a side effect of policosanol in the 1980s Cuban studies – but obesity in Cuba in the 80s was not the big issue it literally is in the US today.
Is it safe to use policosanol? No ill effects have been reported by any of Tim Ferriss’ testers during the development of the PAGG stack, nor in the emergent blogosphere of adherents and self-testers his book sales have spawned. Reputable retailers of the stack such as Pareto Nutrition recommend medical supervision and advice before taking PAGG, for anyone with a pre-existing conditions requiring medical treatment – the precise biochemical pathways involved in its cholesterol-lowering properties are still being explored, but it may work similarly to commercially produced statins, so this could lead to overdosing if combined – ideally policosanol should be used as a supplement BEFORE cholesterol levels are high enough to require medical intervention. Its use alongside any blood-thinning medication is also inadvisable – policosanol may enhance the effects of warfarin, heparin and similar medications, again making effects unpredictable. Other studies have also indicated potential interactions with levodopa, which is used to treat Parkinson’s disease.
Other side effects of policosanol were reported in low levels in the Cuban trials, but all were mild and short term. They included They have included indigestion, skin rash, headache, insomnia, as well as the aforementioned ‘side effect’ of weight loss.