Introduction

Over the past few years, nutraceuticals have become increasingly popular among the general public.1 Octacosanol is one such supplement that has been the subject of many research studies. As with other types of supplementation, the benefits must outweigh the risks.

Octacosanol is the main active component of policosanol and wheat germ oil. Octacosanol is a long carbon chain: CH3(CH2)26CH2O14. It has a natural mixture of high molecular weight alcohols and is primarily isolated from sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum L) wax. Small quantities of octacosanol are available in the human diet through plants (mainly as a wax in the superficial layers of fruits), leaves, skins of common plants, and whole seeds. Most studies have used wheat germ oil extract or policosanol to elicit an octacosanol response.

Early work by Thomas Cureton examined the physiological effects of wheat germ oil on humans during exercise. He discovered that extracts from wheat germ oil had beneficial effects on the physical performance of athletes.23 Based on Cure-ton's work, other researchers began to take notice of the benefits of wheat germ oil. Soon its components were isolated and examined separately. Octacosanol appeared to be the primary active compound in wheat germ oil. With the help of Gonzalez-Bravo et al., the analytical procedure for determining octacosanol in plasma was refined.4 This procedure allowed for higher recovery (94.5 to 98.7%) and precision (1.8 to 5.8%) than was ever before permitted.

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