Red Yeast Rice Helps Reduce High Cholesterol

An article was published in Townsend Letter News by Alan R. Gaby, MD citing research that has been conducted to show that Red Yeast Rice supplementation is able to reduce levels of cholesterol.

 

In the study one hundred forty-two patients (mean age, 57.3 years) with hypercholesterolemia, who were not being treated with a statin drug were randomly assigned to get, using a double-blind protocol, red yeast rice or placebo for 12 weeks.

Hypercholesterolemia is the name given to the condition that is characterized by very high levels of cholesterol in the blood.

Cholesterol is fat-like substance that is produced in the body and may be obtained from certain foods. Cholsterol is necesary to build cell membranes, make certain hormones, and produce compounds that aid in fat digestion.  However too much cholesterol increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease.

In the experiment the red yeast rice provided 3 mg per day of monacolin K (lovastatin), which is a lower dose than that used in previous studies.

In the red yeast rice group, the mean total-cholesterol level fell by 11.2% and the mean LDL-cholesterol level fell by 14.8% (p < 0.001 compared with the changes in the placebo group). Fifty-one percent of the participants treated with it achieved the target LDL-cholesterol level of less than 160 mg/dl.

What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is fermented rice produced when red yeast ( Monascus purpureus) is grown on white rice.

It has been used in China for more than 1,000 years and is a dietary staple in China and Japan.

Some strains of red yeast rice, excluding those that are sold as food in China and Japan, when fermented under controlled conditions, produce compounds called monacolins.

Monacolins are structurally very similar to statin drugs like pravastatin, simvastatin, and lovastatin.

Lovastatin has been identified as the most predominant monacolin.

Monacolins, similarly to the effects of statin drugs, inhibit cholesterol synthesis by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase and also decreasing C-reactive protein levels.

Previous Red Yeast Rice Studies

There have been many clinical trials showing the use of red yeast rice to significantly decrease serum total- and LDL-cholesterol levels.

These effects were similar to those of commonly used statin drugs, even though red yeast rice contains substantially lower amounts of lovastatin and other monacolins than the dosages of most statin drugs used to treat hypercholesterolemia.

Dr Gaby suggests that it’s possible that the various monacolins in red yeast act synergistically, or that they act additively with other substances in red yeast rice.

He tells us that most of the previous clinical trials administered dosages that provided 5-10 mg per day of monacolin K, in comparison to 3 mg per day in the present study.

He reminds us that  while red yeast rice is considerably less likely than statin drugs to cause myalgia and other side effects, it is not risk-free. For this reason, the says that when using it to treat hypercholesterolemia,  it’s best to give the lowest effective dose.

It is not recommended for people taking statin drugs to also take red yeast rice since the combination may increase the risk of adverse effects.

Reference:

Heinz T, et al. Low daily dose of 3 mg monacolin K from RYR reduces the concentration of LDL-C in a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention. Nutr Res. 2016;36:1162 1170.