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Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese substance made by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureusover rice. Various formulations of this product have been used in China since at least 800 AD as a food and also as a medicinal substance within the context of Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine . This ancient preparation contains naturally occurring substances similar (and, in some cases, identical) to cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs in the “statin” family.
Red yeast rice is thought to be effective for lowering cholesterol, presumably because of its statin constituents. There is evidence to support this use.
An 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 83 people with high cholesterol evaluated red yeast rice. 1 At the end of the 8-week treatment period, levels of total cholesterol decreased significantly in the red yeast rice group as compared to the placebo group. Benefits were also seen in LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides as well. No significant differences were noted in HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels from baseline or between groups. In an 8-week study of 79 people, use of red yeast rice was noted to improve the LDL/HDL ratio, along with several other measures of cardiac risk. 2 In a...
In clinical trials, use of red yeast rice has not been associated with any significant side effects. However, red yeast rice contains naturally occurring statin drugs, and use of statin drugs can cause side effects ranging from minor to life-threatening. Some of the most common include muscle pain, joint pain, liver inflammation, and peripheral nerve damage; severe breakdown of muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis) leading to kidney failure has also occurred. It is almost certain that red yeast rice can cause the same problems if it is used by enough people, and there are at least two case reports in the literature of muscle injury caused by red yeast rice; in one case, rhabdomyolosis developed. 3 Due to the relative lack of regulation of supplement manufacture, the...