What is Octacosanol?
Octacosanol is a straight-chain fatty alcohol found in the wax that coats the outer surface of some plants, including Eucalyptus leaves, cereal grasses, forage grasses, Acacia shrubs, flowering plants in the Trifolium and Pisum genera, and many plants in the legume genus. However, manufacturers primarily derive it from wheat germ oil. Other production sources include grape seed oil, krill, perilla, and tomatoes.
Octacosanol has high stability and may benefit exercise performance, cognition, and heart health. It shares chemical similarities with vitamin E and is the primary component of policosanol.
What is Policosanol?
Policosanol is an umbrella term for a mix of long-chain alcohols reduced from long-chain fatty acids taken from plant waxes. Both octacosanol and policosanol exert positive effects on blood cholesterol levels. It's also shown promise at rectifying lipid imbalances and improving blood pressure.
Potential Octacosanol Benefits
Octacosanol as an Antioxidant
Octacosanol exerts multiple antioxidant effects on the body. It boosts levels of other potent antioxidants like glutathione (GSH) and scavenges reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROSs are a subset of free radicals that causes cellular stress and damage to DNA, lipids, and proteins. Long-term free radical damage promotes rapid aging and contributes to numerous disease states. Octacosanol also has antinociceptive properties that can reduce pain without causing drowsiness or producing an anesthesia response. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Octacosanol and Exercise Performance
Interest in octacosanol as an ergogenic aid dates back to the 1950s. Research shows that octacosanol benefits exercise performance by enhancing fat metabolism and boosting endurance. Animal studies also report that octacosanol reduced fatigue and allowed the animals to perform aerobic exercises for longer before reaching exhaustion. Researchers believe this is because octacosanol spared glycogen stores typically depleted by strenuous exercise and increased the muscles' oxidative capacity.
Octacosanol's Effects on Stress and Sleep
Octacosanol may improve sleep during periods of stress. Stress is a common cause of sleep disturbances, such as an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Animal studies reported that octacosanol led to improvements in sleep latency and frequency of sleep while reducing episodes of wakefulness. The researchers attributed this to the significant reduction in cortisol, a primary stress hormone, following octacosanol administration.
Octacosanol and Cognition
Octacosanol may support cognitive health in several ways. Stress and insufficient sleep can wreak havoc on cognitive function. Long-term sleep loss also increases susceptibility to cognitive impairment. Less stress and better sleep can attenuate these issues. Animal studies also show that policosanol enhances learning and memory by reducing the effects of oxidative stress on cognition. Researchers also noted that policosanol stimulated the cholinergic system, which modulates memory and cognitive processes.
Octacosanol and Heart Health
Octacosanol has several properties that may support heart health. It helps restore balance to blood fats by reducing LDL ("bad") cholesterol and total cholesterol while increasing HDL ("good") cholesterol. Scientific studies also reported that policosanol supplements performed similarly to statins without the usual statin side effects. Additionally, it exerted antiplatelet activity similar to aspirin at 20% of the dose. Research also notes that octacosanol activates brown adipose tissue, reduces cholesterol uptake in the liver, and improves hepatic fat metabolism—even when consuming a high-fat diet.
Octacosanol has beneficial effects for individuals experiencing significant weight changes due to exercise. High-intensity workouts and rapid weight loss can cause lipid imbalances. A clinical trial examining taekwondo players reported reductions in oxidative stress and better cholesterol levels in the group taking octacosanol compared to a placebo.
Potential Octacosanol Side Effects
Most individuals can take octacosanol supplements without experiencing adverse effects. However, octacosanol may interact with certain medications. Individuals with Parkinson's disease should not take octacosanol, as it may interact with levodopa. It may also lower blood sugar and blood pressure. Individuals taking medications for these conditions should consult a physician before taking octacosanol supplements. Individuals taking anticoagulants should also discuss octacosanol supplements with a doctor, as they may slow blood clotting.
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