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Red Yeast Rice May Lower Bad Cholesterol

written by: cra8051 • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 6/3/2011

Treatment to lower cholesterol using prescription statin drugs is not acceptable to all patients. Concerns about known dangerous side effects or a simple preference for natural remedies may inhibit going on a long-term course of these drugs. Red yeast rice is one alternative.

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    An Ancient Chinese Medical Treatment

    Red yeast rice has been used in China at least since 800 A.D. Since there is only so much diet control one can do to reduce bad cholesterol and raise good (HDL), people look for alternatives. There are healthy alternatives without taking prescription drugs. One of the most effective ways to lower bad cholesterol naturally is Red Yeast Rice. Other names for this substance are Hong Qu, Monascus, Xue Zhi Kang and Zhi Tai. The term Red Rice Yeast also will bring up hits in search engines. The most common dose of Red Yeast Rice is 2.4 grams a day taken in two doses at breakfast and dinner to lower cholesterol..

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    Prescription Statin Drugs Compared to Red Yeast Rice

    Studies have shown that compared to 20 mg doses of statin drugs, which may decrease LDL levels from 18 to 55 percent, red yeast rice can drop LDL by 34 percent or more. Statins may increase HDL by 5 to 15 percent. Red yeast rice can equal or better that improvement(1). Similar comparisons confirm positive decreases in triglycerides. A study in 2008 found combining red yeast rice with lifestyle changes and fish oil caused a dramatic 42 percent reduction in LDL (2).

    Red yeast rice supplements are different than the red yeast rice found in Chinese stores. Among the compounds in the supplement is a natural form of lovastatin, which does not appear to have any of the possible toxic liver side effects of prescription strength statins. There are also isoflavones and monounsaturated fatty acids in the supplement, which may contribute to the positive effects on cholesterol levels. Reports note the natural lovastatin found in red yeast rice is less than half that found in prescription versions.

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    Cautions

    Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant and children under 18 years should not take this supplement. Red yeast rice can cause digestive upset and dizziness. Since it does contain a form of statin, the cautions applying to prescription varieties apply, that is, patients should watch out for muscle problems and possible changes in liver function. Periodic blood checks of hepatic values are advised. Talk with your pharmacist or doctor before starting on red yeast if taking prescription drugs. Those taking regular statins or Red Yeast rice are advised to consider talking with health care professionals about supplementing with CoEnzyme Q10, since the statin dosage may decrease this important enzyme. Varying actual amounts of the contents in Red Yeast rice, including possible contaminants have been identified in over-the-counter products. Before taking any supplement it is highly advisable to locate approved brands through a reputable testing site such as www.consumerlab.com.

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    Disclaimer

    Please read this disclaimer regarding the information you have just read.

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    Notes

    (1) Heber, D., et al. “Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999 Feb; 69(2):231.

    (2) Carter, M., et al. “Simvastin vs. therapeutic lifestyle changes and supplements: randomized primary prevention trial.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2008 Nov; 83(7) 758-64.