Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol

You may not have heard about red yeast rice and its connection to cholesterol reduction, but this topic is receiving a good deal of buzz.  Considering the epic size of the cholesterol problem not just in the United States, but increasingly around the world, any treatments or new developments regarding efforts to bring cholesterol under control will, of course, receive ample attention.

What is red yeast rice?  Red yeast rice isn’t a new product, and it certainly wasn’t “just discovered.”   The use of red yeast rice in traditional Chinese medicine goes back thousands of years.  In Chinese medicine, red yeast rice was used to help with digestion and increase overall vitality.

It was during the 1970s that red yeast rice was explored by researchers looking to develop new statin drugs.  Statin drugs are drugs that work to inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the body.  The statin drugs created from red yeast rice contained monacolin K and, as it turned out, so did regular red yeast rice.  This led to the FDA placing a ban on other products that also contained monacolin K as they were deemed drugs.  This led to a situation where red yeast rice could be sold in the United States, but only if the active statin component was essentially removed.  This resulted in a lowered effectiveness of subsequent non-drug, non-pharmaceutically produced red yeast rice products. 

The issue of red yeast rice and cholesterol is a very tricky one.  All statins deplete coenzyme CoQ10, which is vital for heart health and plays a critical role in overall cell health.  As we age, we naturally make less coenzyme COQ10, which makes the consumption of statins problematic.  There are other health concerns and problems as well, for the safety of red yeast rice products is still up in the air.  It has been discovered that many products can contain toxic levels of citrinin, which is a fungus.

You can buy over the counter supplements made from red yeast rice extract.  These products are sold as a natural way to lower cholesterol, and the evidence indicates that they do indeed work for lowering cholesterol.   

It is important to note that there are health concerns associated with taking any statin drug or natural supplement.  Consulting with your doctor on this topic is a good first step.  As it turns out, there appears to be both effective drug based and supplement based ways to address cholesterol.   A third option is to find out about generic statin drug options as well.  The issue of red yeast rice and cholesterol is a confusing one.  Should you get advice from your doctor regarding what steps to take?  Where red yeast rice, cholesterol and statin drugs are concerned, the answer is definitely "Yes."

 

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