What is Red Yeast Rice?
Red-yeast rice has been used for over a thousand years by the Chinese to improve blood circulation. Red-yeast rice contains several ingredients that may help control cholesterol levels. These include a number of monacolins, most importantly monacolin K. It also contains sterols, isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids, or "healthy fats". Red-yeast rice is the fermented product of rice on which red yeast (Monascus purpureus) has been grown.
For those who have been advised to lower their cholesterol, but are concerned about the serious side effects associated with taking statin drugs (e.g. liver dysfunction, muscle atrophy, memory loss, etc.), clinically proven natural alternatives are available.
The Chinese condiment Red Yeast Rice, for example, was judged by the Physician's Desk Reference On Nutritional Supplements to "significantly reduce total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and total triglyceride concentrations, compared to a placebo." Considering the fact that the PDR is the authoritative text in the medical field on supplements, and it is written by doctors for doctors, it is disappointing that few doctors are recommending Red Yeast Rice to manage hypercholesterolemia in their patients.
After all, Red Yeast Rice contains the same cholesterol lowering HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor (lovastatin) as the drug Mevacor. And yet, even at doses six times lower, Red Yeast Rice out performed the pharmaceutical isolated lovastatin, showing a wider range of benefits and incomparably higher safety margin.
In China, consumption of red-yeast rice has been studied and found to reduce total cholesterol by 11-32%. Red-yeast rice is a dietary staple in many Asian countries including Japan and China. Typical daily consumption is between 0.5 to 2.0 ounces per day. It has also been used in the U.S. by the Asian Americans and has been shown to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease.
There are three major preparations of red-yeast rice: Zhitai, Cholestin or Hypocol, and Xuezhikang. Cholestin or Hypocol produce a concentration of monacolin K which is lovastatin the active ingredient in the medication Mevacor.
In studies done by the Chinese, Zhitai and Xuezhikang showed that total cholesterol was lowered by 10-30%, LDL cholesterol was lowered by an average of 10-20%, triglycerides lowered by 15-25%, and HDL increased by an average of 7-15%.
Studies at UCLA have shown that Cholestin reduced total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels but had no effect on HDL cholesterol.
These studies were for several weeks in duration, so the long-term effects of eating red-yeast rice is not known. However, many Asians have eaten red-yeast rice for generations without any particular problems; it is considered a traditional Chinese medicine.
** In the United States, the FDA asked manufacturers of red-yeast products to remove them from the market because they contained lovastatin. The FDA cited a risk of severe muscle problems that could lead to kidney disease. So if you want to purchase red-yeast rice extracts you'll have to go to other countries or the Internet.
Solaray's Red Yeast Rice
Doctor's Best's Red Yeast Rice