Octacosanol ingestion and its effects on metabolic responses to submaximal cycle ergometry, reaction time and chest and grip strength


Saint-John, M.; McNaughton, L.

International Clinical Nutrition Review 6(2): 81-87

1986


In a double-blind trial physical education students and lecturers (8 experimental and 8 placebo) were pre-tested for chest and grip strength, predicted VO2 max using an incremental bicycle ergometer test and reaction time in response to visual and auditory stimuli. The experimental group ingested one capsule containing 1000 mu g octacosanol, a natural substance present in very small amounts in many vegetable oils and waxes, in the leaves of lucerne and wheat, in wheat germ and in other foods, and which is being marketed as a sports supplement, daily for 8 weeks while the placebo group ingested a similar sugarless gelatin capsule. The groups were tested again after 8 weeks and the results were compared using analysis of variance. No significant changes were found in chest strength, auditory reaction time or endurance as measured by the cycle ergometer test. Grip strength and reaction time to a visual stimuli improved consistently and significantly at, or greater than the minimum level of significance. The results suggest that octacosanol can be used as an ergogenic aid to improve some indices of strength and reaction time.

81.
SPECIAL
ARTICLE
Octacosanol
ingestion
and
its
effects
on
Metabolic
Responses
to
submaximal
cycle
ergometry,
reaction
time
and
chest
and
grip
strength.
by
Mark
Saint-Johns
and
Lars
McNaughton
2
Tasmanian
State
Institute
of
Technology
Centre
for
Physical
Education
ABSTRACT
Sixteen
physical
education
students
and
lecturers
(eight
experimental
and
eight
placebo)
were
pre-tested
for
chest
and
grip
strength,
predicted
maxV0
2
using
an
incremental
bicycle
ergometer
test
and
reaction
time
in
response
to
both
visual
and
auditory
stimuli.
The
experiment
was
conducted
in
a
double
blind
format.
The
experimental
group
ingested
one
capsule
containing
1000mcg
of
octacosanol
per
day
for
eight
weeks
while
the
placebo
group
ingested
a
similar
sugarless
gelatin
capsule.
The
groups
were
then
post
tested
after
eight
weeks
and
the
results
were
compared
using
Analysis
of
Variance
(ANOVA).
No
significant
changes
were
found
in
chest
strength,
auditory
reaction
time,
or
endurance
as
measured
by
the
cycle
ergometer
test.
Grip
strength
and
reaction
time
to
a
visual
stimuli
improved
consistently
and
significantly
at,
or
greater
than
the
minimum
level
of
significance.
A
small
(but
not
statistically
significant)
improvement
was
seen
in
auditory
reaction
time.
The
results
suggest
that
octacosanol
can
be
'used
as
an
ergogenic
aid to
improve
some
parameters
of
strength
and
reaction
time.
Key
Words:
Octacosanol,
reaction
time,
strength,
ergogenic
aid.
INTRODUCTION
Ergogenic
aids
(anything
which
improves
or
is
thought
to
improve
performance)
have
long
been
a
subject
of
contention
both
morally
and
phsiologically.
The
International
Olympic
Committee
(IOC),
and
other
athletic
bodies
have
banned
the
use
of
drugs
and
other
substances
thought
to
improve
performance,
and
any
athlete
known
or
found
to
be
1.
Mark
Saint-John,
B.Ed.,
is
a
practising
Physical
Education
teacher
in
the
Tasmanian
Education
Department.
2.
Lars
McNaughton,
Ph.D.,
is
an
Exercise
Physiologist
at
the
Tasmanian
State
Institute
of
Technology.
Address
all
Correspondence
to
the
second
author
at:
Tasmanian
State
Institute
of
Technology
P.O.
Box
1214
Launceston
Tasmania
7250
Australia
Copyright
©
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
82.
using
them
is
banned
from
competition.
Some
of
the
substances
claimed
to
have
ergogenic
properties
in
the
past
have
been
caffeine
(Costill,
1978
1
;
Costill
et
al.,
1978
2
;
Ivy
et
al.,
1979
3
),
vitamin
E
(Cureton,
1954
4
),
pangamic
acid
(
B
15
Girandola
et
at,
1980
5
),
oxygen
(Bannister,
1954
6
;
Hagerman,
1968
7
;
Allen,
1977
8
)
and
amphetamines
(Karpovich,
1959
9
;
Golding,
1963
10
).
It
is
interesting
to
note
that
for
each
claim
of
ergogenic
properties
for
a
particular
substance
there
is
an
equal
number
of
experiments
disclaiming
the
substance.
Fox
and
Matthews
(1981
11
)
suggests
that
there
exists
a
general
lack
of
objective
and
consistent
information
regarding
the
effects
of
drugs
and
ergogenic
aids
on
performance.
Octacosanol
is
a
substance
which
is
presently
being
'touted'
as
an
ergogenic
aid
in
many
of
the
gyms
and
health
clubs
around
the
country
and
is
being
marketed
as
a
sports
supplement.
Octacosanol
is
a
natural
food
substance
which
is
present
in
very
small
amounts
in
many
vegetable-oils
and
waxes,
in
the
leaves
of
alfalfa
and
wheat,
in
wheat
germ
as
well
as
in
a
variety
of
other
foods.
It
is
also
found
in
animal
sources
and
is
a
component
of
some
petrochemical
substances
including
paraffin
(Fieldman,
1982
12
).
In
1937
13
,
the
properties
of
octacosanol
were
described
by
Francis,
Collins
and
Piper
in
a
paper
which
expounded
constants
for
various
long
chain
n-fatty
acids
and
their
derivatives;
ethylesters,
alcohols
and
iodides,
(C28-038).
Octacosanol
however,
was
not
isolated
in
any
quantity
until
sometime
in
the
1950's
when
Thomas
Cureton
began
studies
of
the
product
on
a
large
scale.
Subject
Sex
Age
Height
(cm)
Weight
(kg)
S1
F
20
163.5
60
S2
F
21
163.5
48
S3
F
18
172.5
62
S4
F
18
171
73
S5
M
18
178
69
S6
M
21
185
77
S7
M
18
178.5
71
S8
M
26
173
77.5
X
20
173.1
67.2
Sd
2.77
7.4
10.0
Table
1.
Mean
Characteristics
for
Octacosanol
Subjects.
Early
investigators
had
discovered
that
wheat
germ
oil
(WGO)
produced
significant
effects,
particularly
in
regard
to
reproduction.
Currie
(1937
14
)
found
that
it
significantly
reduced
habitual
abortion
in
humans,
whereas
Dukelow
(1968
15
),
found
that
it
was
effective
in
reducing
artificially
induced
embryonic
mortality
in
rabbits.
Certain
neurological
disorders
in
dogs
and humans
have
been
shown
to
be
improved
by
the
use
of
WGO
(Milhorat,
1945
16
;
Milhorat
et
al.,
1945
17
;
Rabinovitch,
1951
18
).
Other
authors
(Ershoff
and
Levin,
Copyright
CO
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
83.
1955
19
;
Alfin-Slater
et
al.,
1960
20
)
have
suggested
unidentified
active
factor(s)
present
in
WOO
responsible
for
improved
performance
and
reduction
in
the
liver
cholesterol
stores.
It
was
known
that
WGO
was
relatively
rich
in
vitamin
E,
and
it
was
generally
accepted
that
vitamin
E
was
the
active
ingredient.
It
was
not
until
1939,
when
pure
forms
of
vitamin
E
became
available
for
research
that
this
was
disproved
and
the
way
was
opened
to
isolate
the
unkown
factor.
Levin
(1945
21
),
makes
the
sharp
distinction
between
vitamin
E
and
WGO,
disclaiming
vitamin
E
as
the
active
ingredient
and
suggesting
biologically
active
substances
other
than
vitamin
E.
The
first
pioneering
experiments
in
the
area
of
octacosanol
were
performed
by
Cureton.
Cureton's
studies
were
concerned
with
the
effect
of
WOO
on
strength,
stamina
and
reaction
time
(RT),
and
cardiovascular
function
in
human
beings.
His
experiments
led
him
to
the
conclusion
that
octacosanol
was
the
"unknown
factor"
in
WOO
rather
than
vitamin
E
as
previously
thought.
His
work
incorporated
nearly
900
human
subjects
in
42
physical
training
programs.
The
subjects
were
of
all
ages
and
all
degrees
of
fitness.
Close
attention
was
paid
to
detail,
with
objectivity
and
validity
being
of
high
priority.
Careful
matching
and
screening
procedures
and
double
blind
tests
were
always
used
to
ensure
that
the
results
were
as
accurate
as
possible.
Subject
Sex
Age
Height
(cm)
Weight
(kg)
S9
F
18
161
60
S10
F
33
164
67
S11
F
21
162.5
61.6
S12
F
20
168.5
53
S13
M
19
177.5
76.5
S14
M
18
180.5
72
S15
M
19
172.8
66
S16
M
30
185
85.5
X
22.25
171.5
67.T
Sd
5.8
8$
10.2
Table
2.
Mean
Characteristics
for
Placebo
Subjects.
Cureton's
results
showed
that
WGO
furnished
a
type
of
nutrition,
more
effective
(due
to
octacosanol),
than
previously
considered
a
possibility
(Cureton,
1972
22
).
The
results
show
statistically
significant
effects,
at
the
0.05
levels
of
significance,
on
several
types
of
endurance
performance,
total
body
RT,
basal
metabolism,
oxygen
uptake
tests
and
oxygen
debt.
Octacosanol
was
found
to
be
the
active
energy
releasing
factor,
since
improvement
in
performance
was
related
to
octacosanol
fed
and
not
other
variables.
Copyright
Cr
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
84.
The
effects
of
octacosanol
were
shown
to
manifest
themselves
after
a
period
of
4
to
6
weeks
of
ingestion.
The
differences
found
were
large
enough
to
affect,
in
a
practical
way,
the
relative
order
of
finishing
a
race,
for
example
the
1500
metres,
or
ratings
in
other
physical
tests,
for
example
RT.
The
1962
patent
for
octacosanol
quotes,
"The
physiological
advantage
was
shown
in
terms
of
running
endurance
in
all
our
treadmill
runs,
T-wave
of
the
electrocardiogram,
lower
systolic
blood
pressure,
the
Schneider
index
and
illinois
total
body
reaction
time
tests,
in
response
to
light,
sound
and
combined
signals."
(Fieldman
12
,
page
9).
Fieldman
goes
on
to
say
that
octacosanol
is
now
accepted
as
an
ergogenic
aid,
"It
improves
endurance,
speeds
reaction
times,
provides
glycogen,
strengthens
muscles
and
reduces
the
oxygen
debt."
(Fieldman
12
,
page
10)
Wheat
germ
oil
has
often
been
quoted
as
an
ergogenic
aid
which
increases
endurance.
The
biologically
active
factor
has
been
shown
to
be
octacosanol
rather
than
vitamin
E
as
originally
thought.
It
is
suggested
that
it
acts
by
reducing
the
oxygen
requirements
of
the
tissues
and
improves
coronary
collateral
circulation.
Many
studies
by
Cureton
have
shown
an
improvement
in
endurance
activities
due
to
octacosanol
(but
thought
to
be
vitamin
E
in
WGO),
but
these
have
generally
speaking
not
been
replicated
by
others.
This
experiment
aimed
to
test
the
effect
of
ingestion
of
octacosanol
on
the
metabolic
response
to
submaximal
exercise,
strength
and
reaction
time
parameters
(Cureton,
1972
22
).
Subject
S1
S2
S3
S4
S5
S6
S7
S8
PRE
283.4
324.1
328.7
293.7
286.4
273.6
341.8
365.4
POST
260.0
282.5
273.4
261.4
262.4
231.4
292.0
292.0
Table
3.
Mean
Reaction
Times
in
Response
to
Visual
Stimulus.
(sec
x
10
-3
)
Methods
Sixteen
people
from
a
college
population,
of
varying
degrees
of
fitness
volunteered
to
participate
in
this
study.
Before
undertaking
the
study
they
were
all
informed
as
to
the
aims
and
the
possible
risks
involved
and
they
all
signed
informed
consent.
The
sixteen
subjects,
eight
male
and
eight
female
were
then
randomly
assigned
(by
sex)
to
the
two
groups,
experimental
and
placebo.
Test
Protocol.
The
subjects
were
first
tested
for
strength
using
the
same
grip
and
chest
strength
dynamometers.
Grip
and
chest
strength
were
chosen
as
being
representative
indices
of
body
strength.
The
subjects
were
then tested
for
reaction
time
using
a
Dekan,
model
741
timer
with
a
pressure
plate
and
light
and
sound
stimuli.
In
response
to
a
stimulus
(either
the
light
or
sound)
the
subject
was
required
to
jump
vertically
off
the
pressure
plate
to
break
contact.
The
time
between
the
production
of
the
stimuli
and
the
breaking
of
contact
was
recorded.
This
time
delay
represents
reaction
time
and
movement
time
but
for
the
purposes
of
this
study
it
was
termed
reaction
time
(RT).
The
delay
between
the
command
'ready'
and
the
production
of
the
stimulus
was
randomly
varied
between
0.5
and
3.0
seconds.
The
subjects
did
not
have
knowledge
of
results
until
after
the
test.
The
subjects
Copyright
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
85.
also
performed
on
incremental
bicycle
ergometer
tests
over
nine
minutes,
with
the
heart
rate
being
taken
in
the
last
fifteen
seconds
at
the
end
of
every
three
minute
period.
The
experimenter
was
well
practiced
in
taking
heart
rates
by
palpation.
The
max
VO
2
was
calculated
on
the
basis
of
the
results
gained
from
this
test.
Subject
S1
S2
S3
S4
S5
S6
S7
S8
PRE
264.5
284.3
304.9
275.9
265.8
376.2
294.5
326.9
POST
260.5
283.4
285.6
270.5
257.8
308.3
288.7
303.3
Table
4.
Mean
Reaction
Times
in
Response
to
Auditory
Stimulus.
(sec
x
10
-3
)
Each
subject
was
then
given
a
bottle
containing
56
capsules.
One
capsule
was
to
be
taken
each
day
for
an
eight
week
period.
Group
A
was
given
'Bioglan'
octacosanol
and
group
B
was
given
a
sugarless
gelatin
capsule
with
physical
characteristics
identical
to
those
of
the
octacosanol.
A
double
blind
experimental
procedure
was
followed.
Further,
the
subjects
were
asked
not
to
engage
in
any
uncharacteristic
physical
activity
while
the
experiment
was
be
conducted.
After
the
eight
week
period
the
subjects
were
post-tested
using
an
identical
format
to
that
used
for
the
pre-tests.
As
far
as
was
possible
the
tests
were
conducted
at
the
same
time
of
day
under
identical
conditions
to
those
found
in
the
pre-test
situation.
The
results
were
tabulated
and
an
analysis
of
variance
(ANOVA)
was
used
to
compare
the
pre
and
post
tests
and
the
experimental
and
placebo
groups.
A
minimum
level
of
significance
was
established
at
the
0.05
level.
Results
The
physical
characteristics
of
the
subjects
for
both
the
placebo
and
octacosanol
groups
are
shown
in
Tables
1
and
2.
There
were
no
significant
differences
between
the
two
groups
on
any
of
the
experimental
parameters
measured
pre-test,
neither
were
there
any
statistically
significant
differences
in
the
physical
parameters.
The
reaction
times
in
response
to
the
visual
(light)
stimulus
were
reduced
consistently
in
the
octacosanol
group
at
the
0.01
level
(F
1
,
14
=
10.56)
of
significance.
There
were
no
differences
in
the
control
(placebo)
group
pre-test
to
post-test.
In
response
to
the
auditory
stimulus
presented
there
were
small
but
not
statistically
significant
differences
between
the
pre
and
post
test
octacosanol
group.
An
analysis
by
subject
found
that
there
was
a
statistically
significant
effect
at
the
0.05
level
of
confidence
for
two
of
the
eight
octacosanol
subjects.
Once
again
none
of
these
changes
were
seen
in
the
placebo
group
for
the
auditory
stimulus.
The
mean
reaction
times
for
both
the
visual
and
auditory
stimuli
are
shown
in
Tables
3
and
4.
When
grip
strength
was
analysed
it
was
found
that
there
was
a
slight
increase
in
the
performance
of
the
octacosanol
subjects
over
the
eight
week
ingestion
period.
When
this
was
compared
to
the
results
of
the
placebo
group
there
was
a
significant
difference
at
the
0.025
level
of
significance
(F
1
,
14
=
6.51).
Copyright
©
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
86.
An
analysis
by
sex
showed
some
significant
differences
in
improvement
between
males
and
females
on
some
of
the
parameters
measured
after
ingestion
of
the
octacosanol.
That
is
males
and
females
were
seen
to
differ
slightly
in
improvement
or
lack
of
it
after
ingestion
of
octacosanol.
The
males
showed
significant
differences
at
the
0.025
level
of
significance
on
grip
strength
between
pre
and
post
test
measures
(F1,16
=
12.97)
whereas
the
females
did
not
show
any
differences
between
pre
and
post
test.
Both
males
and
females
showed
significant
differences
at
the
0.01
level
of
significance
when
the
visual
stimuli
were
compared
pre
and
post
test
(F
1
,
6
=
21.26
[males];
F1,6
=
20.35
[females]).
Discussion
The
data
of
this
experiment
fail
to
support
the
hypothesis
that
ingestion
of
a
regular
small
daily
dose
of
octacosanol
(1
000mcg)
over
an
eight
week
period
significantly
improves
chest
strength,
max
VO
2
or
reaction
time
in
response
to
an
auditory
stimulus.
The
present
data
does
however
lend
support
to
the
hypothesis
that
the
same
dose
of
octacosanol
significantly
improves
reaction
time
in
response
to
a
visual
stimulus
and
grip
strength
as
measured
on
a
grip
strength
dynamometer.
These
results
can
be
compared
to
those
of
Cureton
22
(1972).
According
to
Dubick
23
(1983),
Cureton's
work
received
considerable
credibility
but
has
not
generally
been
replicated
by
other
studies
in
the
same
area.
Furthermore,
others
have
been
unable
to
show
that
wheat
germ
oil
or
its
derivatives
(octacosanol)
improve
human
physical
performance.
Closer
examination
of
Cureton's
(1972
22
)
results
show
that
out
of
three
experiments
on
strength,
there
was
a
statistically
significant
result
once,
a
trend
advantage
once
and
no
significant
difference
once.
Out
of
thirteen
experiments
carried
out
on
endurance,
there
were
ten
which
produced
statistically
significant
improvements.
Our
results
do
not
show
any
improvement
in
endurance
as
measured
by
a
predictive
test.•However,
there
have
been
suggestions
(Ellestad,
1980
24
)
that
predictive
tests
such
as
these
can
have
an
error
of
±
15
percent
which
may
have
resulted
in
a
non-statistical
difference.
Another
factor
might
be
the
difference
in
experimental
protocol
between
the
two
experiments.
Cureton's
results
(1972
22
)
with
regard
to
reaction
time
are
similar
to
the
results
of
this
study.
He
found
that
the
group
taking
octacosanol
lowered
(RT
became
quicker)
total
body
reaction
time
tests
more
than
the
group
taking
synthetic
vitamin
E
the
results
were
statistically
significant
at
the
0.05
level.
Similarly
he
found
that
physically
active
10
to
13
year
old
boys
showed
significantly
reduced
reaction
times
after
ingestion
of
octacosanol
and
in
the
total
body
vertical
jump
reaction
time
tests
the
advantage
was
markedly
in
favour
of
the
octacosanol
supplemented
subjects.
Reaction
time
is
a
function
of
the
neuromuscular
system;
the
time
it
takes
the
system
to
get
'warmed
up'
and
pass
the
nervous
impulse
from
one
part
of
the
system
to
another.
Cureton
(1972
22
)
suggests
that
dietary
supplements
exert
their
favourable
influence
on
endurance
via
an
improved
functioning
of
the
nervous
system
rather
than
changes
in
the
oxygen
transport
system.
It
is
suggested
that
improvements
in
reaction
time
might
be
brought
about
by
improvements
in
the
nervous
rather
than
the
muscular
system.
A
number
of
factors
have
been
suggested
which
will
influence
reaction
time.
Among
these
are
foreperiod,
complexity
of
the
desired
response,
complexity
of
the
stimulus,
intensity
and
duration
of
the
stimulus,
practice,
attention,
distraction,
fatigue
and
particular
sense
organ
stimulated.
In
particular
for
response
to
a
visual
stimulus,
in
daylight
or
illuminated
conditions,
the
reaction
time
becomes
longer,
the
greater
the
distance
of
the
stimulation
from
the
fovea.
In
summary,
it
was
hypothesised
that
octacosanol
reduces
reaction
time
through
facilitating
improved
functioning
of
the
nervous
system
as
part
of
the
neuromuscular
system
rather
than
the
muscular
portion
of
that
system,
although
the
exact
nature
of
that
improvement
is
not
known.
In
conclusion
this
experiment
has
demonostrated
that
octacosanol
can
in
fact
lead
to
Copyright
©
1986
Integrated
Therapies
International
Clinical
Nutrition
Review,
April,
1986
Vol.
6,
No.
2.
87.
improvements
in
some
aspects
of
physical
performance.
These
improvements
however,
do
not
appear
to
be
as
widespread
as
has
been
advertised.
Clearly,
further
work
needs
to
be
undertaken
to
determine
the
exact
nature
of
the
improvement
brought
about
by
octacosanol
and
also
to
determine
whether
octacosanol
affects
other
parameters
of
performance,
for
example
anaerobic
performance
or
maximal
aerobic
performance.
Acknowledgements
The
authors
wish
to
thank
Bioglan
Laboratories
(Aust.)
for
supplying
the
Octacosanol
and
in
particular
Tass
Allis,
Research
Manager
for
his
kind
help.
We
also
wish
to
thank
Paul
Rosetto
for
his
technical
assistance.
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