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November 2005

Policosanol, Omega-3 Combination Improves Lipids

A combination of policosanol and omega-3 fatty acids improves lipid profiles and inhibits platelet aggregation more powerfully than either agent alone, according to recently published research.*

Policosanol is a mixture of primary alcohols purified from sugarcane wax. Fish oil is the most abundant source of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

In this study, male rabbits were divided into four test groups: the first group received 5 mg of policosanol per kilogram of body weight; the second group received 250 mg of omega-3 fatty acids per kilogram of body weight; the third group received both policosanol and omega-3 fatty acids; and a control group received neither policosanol nor omega-3 fatty acids. Treatment was administered orally for 60 days, and lipid levels and platelet aggregation were measured at baseline and at the study’s end.

The policosanol group experienced significant decreases of 43% in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and 29% in total cholesterol, an increase of 15% in high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and no change in triglyceride level. The omega-3 group demonstrated a 47% decrease in triglyceride levels, but no change in other lipid levels. In the policosanol and omega-3 combination group, LDL dropped 39%, while changes in HDL and total cholesterol were similar to those achieved with policosanol alone. Both policosanol and omega-3s significantly inhibited platelet aggregation, by 13% and 12%, respectively. The combination of the two agents, however, reduced platelet aggregation by 24%. This pair of nutritional therapeutics may thus offer a powerful combination for optimizing several risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Anyone using policosanol or any other drug, supplement, or diet for the purpose of lowering total cholesterol/LDL should have their blood tested within 60 days to make sure cholesterol and LDL levels are being reduced to safe ranges. Life Extension recommends that both total cholesterol and LDL should be under 100 mg/dL, while beneficial HDL should be at least 50 mg/dL.

—Christie C. Yerby, ND


* Gamez R, Maz R, Arruzazabala ML, Mendoza S, Castano G. Effects of concurrent therapy with policosanol and omega-3 fatty acids on lipid profile and platelet aggregation in rabbits. Drugs R D. 2005;6(1):11-9.

Vinpocetine Boosts Blood Flow in Stroke Patients

Vinpocetine, a compound derived from the periwinkle plant Vinca minor, increases blood flow and oxygenation to the brain in patients who have suffered a stroke, according to several new studies.1-3

Stroke affects an estimated 700,000 Americans each year, choking off the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Stroke’s effects can include memory loss, paralysis, and vision and speech problems. Treatment immediately following a stroke is associated with improved outcomes.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers examined vinpocetine’s effects on patients who had suffered an ischemic stroke. They randomly assigned 43 patients to two groups. The first group received 20 mg of vinpocetine in 500 ml of saline administered intravenously, and the placebo group received saline only. Examining cerebral blood flow before and after treatment, the researchers found that vinpocetine helped increase cerebral circulation and tissue oxygenation.1

A subsequent study used positron emission tomography (PET) to determine the effects of intravenously administered vinpocetine in chronic ischemic stroke patients. In this double-blind study, 14 days of intravenous vinpocetine was found to increase cerebral blood flow.2

Vinpocetine may have several different mechanisms of action, including antioxidant, vasodilatory, and neuroprotective activities.3 Vinpocetine may help optimize cerebral blood flow and oxygen supply in patients who have suffered from ischemic stroke. Both intravenous and oral administration of vinpocetine show promise in promoting optimized cerebral circulation.1-4 While orally administered vinpocetine rapidly appears in the brains of healthy human subjects,4 more studies are indicated to examine its effects in people who have suffered a stroke.

—Christie C. Yerby, ND


1. Bonoczk P, Panczel G, Nagy Z. Vinpocetine increases cerebral blood flow and oxygenation in stroke patients: a near infrared spectroscopy and transcranial Doppler study. Eur J Ultrasound. 2002 Jun;15(1-2):85-91.
2. Nagy Z, Balkay L, et al. Effects of vinpocetine on the redistribution of cerebral blood flow and glucose metabolism in chronic ischemic stroke patients: a PET study. J Neurol Sci. 2005 Mar 15;229-230:275-84.
3. [No authors listed]. Vinpocetine. Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2002 Jun;7(3):240-3.
4. Vas A, Gulyas B, Szabo Z, et al. Clinical and non-clinical investigations using positron emission tomography, near infrared spectroscopy and transcranial Doppler methods on the neuroprotective drug vinpocetine: a summary of evidences. J Neurol Sci. 2002 Nov 15;203-204:259-62.

Nutrients Benefit Macular Degeneration Patients

A combination of nutrients improves vision and reverses pathological changes in adults with early macular degeneration, according to a recent study conducted by European investigators.*

Macular degeneration is the major cause of vision loss in adults over 55 years of age. While epidemiological studies have shown that an antioxidant-rich diet may help prevent macular degeneration, this new study demonstrates an effective nutritional treatment for the adverse effects of early macular degeneration.

This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study enrolled 106 patients with bilateral macular degeneration. The subjects received either a nutrient combination (consisting of 200 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine, 780 mg of omega-3 fatty acids, and 20 mg of coenzyme Q10) or a placebo daily for 12 months, and underwent visual testing every three months. Treatment improved visual field defects in both eyes. Only one of 102 eyes treated deteriorated during the 12-month study, compared to 14 of 110 placebo-treated eyes. Moreover, the area of the eye’s fundus covered by drusen (degenerated retinal pigment cells that are a precursor to macular degeneration) in the treated group decreased by 15% to 23%, while increasing by more than 10% in the placebo group.

The nutrients were selected based on their biological activities. Specifically, acetyl-L-carnitine facilitates fatty acid oxidation, omega-3 fatty acids regulate neural and sensory development in the retina, and coenzyme Q10 is critical to the generation of energy in the mitochondria. The results suggest that supporting mitochondrial health may be useful in preventing and managing macular degeneration.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


* Feher J, Kovasc B, Kovacs I, Schvoller M, Papale A, Balacco Gabrieli C. Improvement of visual functions and fundus alterations in early age-related macular degeneration treated with a combination of acetyl-L-carnitine, n-3 fatty acids, and coenzyme Q10. Ophthalmologica. 2005 May-Jun;219(3):154-66.