Policosanols are waxy, mostly linear C20 to C34 alcohols, and can be extracted from beeswax and a range of plant sources including sugar cane, rice bran, green vegetables, wheat bran and saw palmetto.
Clinical trials from Cuba in 2001 reported that policosanols extracted from sugar cane could reduce cholesterol levels by 10 to 30 percent, but further studies have yielded mixed results. This discrepancy, said Valensa's president Dr. Rudi Moerck, could be due to a delivery issue.
"It has been suggested that the efficacy of policosanols is less than optimum because of their limited bioavailability from their traditional supplements," said the company in a statement.
By taking the policosanols down to the nano-scale, Valensa hope to improve the bioavailability of the extract. "Bioavailability" is not the right word, however, since the product is not actually absorbed by the body. "Biofunctionality," said Moerck, "is a much better term."
Nanocosanol is a ultra-high pressure, supercritical carbon dioxide extract from rice bran and/or sugar cane, and is said to contain the ideal ratios of octacosanol, triacontanol and hexacosanol. The market, said Moerck, is asking for sugar cane derived policosanols based on the earlier Cuban results. Valensa, however, is also performing research into extraction from saw palmetto.
The biofunctionality is then enhanced by nanodispersion in omega-3 and omega-6 containing botanicals like cranberry seed oil and amaranth oil.
This formulation creates a product that is reported to have a uniform particle size of less than 100 nanometers, with an excellent shelf-life and mechanical stability up to 40 degrees celsius.
Four hundred milligram doses are said to contain 15 mg policosanol, 50 mg omega-3 fatty acids and 1.5 mg of phytosterols.
A clinical trial is already in progress with about 20 people with several data points already taken, and the product is already commercially available, with demand expected to be high.
The mechanism of action for the reduction of cholesterol, but Moerck explained that this may be "modulating the absorption and reabsorption of cholesterol."
There is no impact, said Moerck, on intestinal flora, but there may be issues with vitamin absorption, but that this should be easy to address.
Globular waxy policosanols are not usually absorbed in the intestine, but by nanodispersion, this could lead to absorption and an added benefit for lateral neuropathy by protecting the sheaths around the nerves.
Moerck told NutraIngredients-USA.com that Valensa was concentrated on putting "more science behind the product", and said that more clinical trials were planned and that European-based trials would be "vital".
Food industry executives polled by Reuters Business Insight last year predicted that by 2009, cholesterol-lowering foods will be the most profitable health food, far ahead of recently trendy products such as low-carb foods.