Scientific Name(S): 1-octacosanol, n-octacosanol, octacosyl alcohol
Common Name(S): 24 to 36 carbon alcohols isolated from wheat germ oil or other plants.
Octacosanol (C28H58O) is a 28 carbon long-chain saturated primary alcohol, and is the active ingredient in wheat germ oil. It is found in wheat germ oil, spinach and sugar cane wax.
History: Studies in the 1930s and 1940s suggested that athletes who were given daily or weekly doses of raw, unrefined wheat germ oil outperformed subjects who received only vitamin E supplements. The biologic value of wheat germ was reconfirmed in a 1951 study in which college students received wheat germ oil for 18 weeks. Treated subjects improved their "all-out" bicycle riding times by 47%, while the untreated controls increased their average riding times by only 4%. All of these studies suggested that some component of unrefined wheat germ oil increased physical endurance, and that vitamin E was not entirely responsible. Further investigations culminated in a patent for the combination of "physiologically active" components of raw wheat germ oil. No published scientific studies were provided that evaluated the physiologic activity of these "active constituents."
Uses of Octacosanol
Octacosanol is being investigated as a herpes antiviral and as a treatment for inflammatory diseases of the skin. It has also demonstrated enhanced physical endurance in some studies.
There is preliminary evidence suggesting that octacosanol may increase physical endurance and that it may benefit some with Parkinson's disease.
Side Effects of Octacosanol
Octacosanol is not recommended for children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. Parkinson's disease patients taking carbidopa-levodopa may experience side effects.
Side effects of octacosanol taken up to 20 milligrams daily are infrequent. Mild position-related nonrotational dizziness, increased nervous tension and worsening of carbidopa-levodopa-related dyskinesias have been reported in a few Parkinson's disease patients taking octacosanol.
When octacosanol is taken as part of policosanol, 5-10 mg of policosanol is taken twice each day with meals. For exercise performance, 1 mg per day of octacosanol has been used.
Toxicology: There are no data on the long-term toxicity of products containing octacosanol. In the Parkinson's disease study, side effects were infrequent but included position-related nonrotational dizziness, mild increase in nervous tension, and worsening of carbidopa/ levodopa-related dyskinesias. These effects suggested an interaction with levodopa.
Summary: Octacosanol commonly denotes a mixture of 24- to 36-carbon alcohols isolated from wheat germ oil. It is also found in many other plants. They have been touted as improving the stamina of athletes, but scientific proof of this is lacking. Animal studies on pharmacokinetic parameters may help to explain possible theories of increased muscle endurance and mobilization of free fatty acids from fat cells, but more research is needed for proof in the human population. There is preliminary evidence that octacosanol may benefit patients with Parkinsonism, but trials in patients with amyotropic lateral sclerosis have shown no therapeutic value. The long-term safety of octacosanol is not known.
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