A number of clinical studies have confirmed that red yeast rice significantly reduces cholesterol – especially LDL-cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol. Some of this research has even shown red yeast rice can do this better than statin drugs.
Cardiology researchers have proven in a clinical study that red yeast rice combined with lifestyle changes outperforms statins for reducing bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol.
This is besides the fact that statins come with a number of adverse side effects. This includes research showing statin use is linked to diabetes.
The researchers conducted their clinical study with 187 patients at Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill Hospital. The patients had high cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels – an average of 154 mg/dL of LDL.
The patients were randomly divided into groups and tested for twelve weeks. One group underwent the typical conventional medicine advice – including prescriptive medications – statins. Another group was given 1,800 milligrams of red yeast rice, and another group was given the red yeast rice together with 900 milligrams of phytosterols in addition to making lifestyle changes.
Before and after the twelve weeks, the researchers conducted cholesterol testing and found that the red yeast rice had reduced reduced triglyceride levels in the patients by 24%, reduced total cholesterol by 16%, reduced LDL by 21%, and. increased HDL-cholesterol by 14%.
And compared to the group given statin therapy, the red yeast group given lifestyle changes had 51 mg/dL lower levels of LDL-C compared to 42 mg/dL lower levels from statin therapy, and they were more than twice as likely to have dropped their LDL levels to under 100 mg/dL – often considered the demarcation between healthy and unhealthy levels.
The researchers then followed the patients over a year of the therapy. The group that took the red yeast rice together with lifestyle changes also lost an average of about five pounds, while the typical therapy group lost an average of less than one pound over the course of a year.
This research confirms another study done with 446 high-cholesterol patients. After eight weeks of red rice yeast therapy, LDL-c levels were reduced by 31%, triglycerides fell by 34% and HDL-c went up by 20%. Other studies have shown similar reductions.
Scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Medicine determined in a double-blind study of 79 human subjects that a nutritional drink containing red yeast rice significantly decreases LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.
The multicenter study gave 79 human subjects either a nutritional drink containing red yeast rice, the same nutritional drink without the red yeast rice, or a fruit-flavored drink without either. The patients were examined by physicians and underwent blood testing for cholesterol levels and C-reactive protein levels before the treatments began, as well as four weeks into the treatments and eight weeks into the treatments. The nutritional drink also contained Co-Q-10, vitamin C, L-carnitine, phytosterols and niacin – all known to contribute to lowering cholesterol.
At the end of four weeks, the researchers found that the group taking the drink with the red yeast rice had a 17% average reduction in LDL cholesterol – or 28 mg/dL lower – and an average reduction in total cholesterol by 13% – or 35 mg/dL lower – compared with the beginning of the study.
At the end of eight weeks of taking the drink, the group that drank the red yeast rice drink had an average reduction of nearly 18% for LDL cholesterol – 30 mg/dL – and 14% reduction in total cholesterol – 46 mg/dL lower.
These significant reductions in LDL cholesterol – the ‘bad’ form of cholesterol – and total cholesterol are consistent with other studies that have been done on red yeast rice. A 2006 review of 93 studies from a Norwegian University that included 9,625 human subjects found that red yeast rice produced similar reductions, together with reduced triglycerides and increased levels of the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.
These cholesterol decreases are also similar – and even greater than some – of the reductions seen among studies of pharmaceutical statins.
Research from Italy’s University of Padua has confirmed that a diet change to a Mediterranean Diet can significantly reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels among both those with and without type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, the research found that the diet change outperformed the use of red yeast rice – a natural form of statin.
The researchers tested 171 human subjects – 90 patients with type 2 diabetes and 81 patients with high levels of LDL-cholesterol – considered unhealthy because LDL-c is known to produce higher levels of artery damage. All the patients were treated because they were intolerant to statin medications.
The researchers divided each group into two groups. They treated one group with a change to the Mediterranean diet, and the other group was treated with the diet change plus treatment with red yeast rice.
After six months on the treatment/diet plans, the researchers found that the diet alone resulted in the reduction of LDL by more than 7% and 12% among those with and without diabetes, respectively.
However, the addition of red yeast rice resulted in an average LDL reduction of 21% among those with type 2 diabetes and 22% among those without diabetes.
This rate of LDL-c reduction from diet and statins is significant, and such a diet change has a number of other long-term benefits, including lower levels of Alzheimer, cancer, diabetes and others.
Red yeast rice is a traditional food and therapy that has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine. Red yeast rice is produced through the fermentation of a yeast, Monascus purpureus, combined with red rice.
Traditional Chinese healers used the red yeast rice to improve digestive conditions along with stimulating circulation of the blood and chi throughout the body.
Interestingly, red yeast rice also contains – among other constituents – phytochemicals called monacolins – whose molecular structure is similar to the molecule used in statin medications. The particular phytochemical in focus is called monacolin K, and it is similar to the drug lovastatin (Mevacor).
The difference is that red yeast rice – like other natural products – contains multiple monacolins along with a variety of other natural constituents which serve to buffer the effects of the monacolins. This does not mean that red yeast rice can render side effects – but its side effects are typically not as serious as statin side effects.
This fact has been confirmed by the fact that two clinical trials have tested patients who could not tolerate statin treatment. These patients did fine with the red yeast rice therapy, and had considerable reductions in bad cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.
This is partly because red yeast rice, also called red koji, produces a natural form of statin called lovastatin.
Monascus purpureus is a yeast species that has also been safely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a blood strengthener and total body tonic for many centuries.
Partly due to some supplements labeled as red yeast rice being unscrupulously made using contaminants, the FDA has restricted the sale of red yeast rice advertised as able to reduce cholesterol or containing significant amounts of lovastatin – also called monacolin K.
Because the FDA banned the over the counter sale of red yeast rice supplements containing lovastatin, many red yeast rice supplements currently sold in the U.S. market either do not contain a significant amount of lovastatin or make no claim to contain them. Caution is advised. See your health professional.
Both statins and red yeast rice can produce headaches, heartburn, gas, bloating, muscle aches, and dizziness. In addition to these, statins can cause rashes, insomnia, diarrhea, and nausea.
Red yeast rice should only be taken when prescribed by a health professional who understands its uses and potential side effects, and knows how to select the appropriate product.
Becker DJ, French B, Morris PB, Silvent E, Gordon RY. Phytosterols, red yeast rice, and lifestyle changes instead of statins: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Am Heart J. 2013 Jul;166(1):187-96. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2013.03.019.
Sartore Giovanni, Burlina Silvia, Ragazzi Eugenio, Ferraresso Stefania, Valentini Romina, and Lapolla Annunziata. Mediterranean Diet and Red Yeast Rice Supplementation for the Management of Hyperlipidemia in Statin-Intolerant Patients with or without Type 2 Diabetes. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 743473, 7 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/743473
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Halbert SC, French B, Gordon RY, Farrar JT, Schmitz K, Morris PB, Thompson PD, Rader DJ, Becker DJ. Tolerability of red yeast rice versus pravastatin (20 mg twice daily) in patients with previous statin intolerance. Am J Cardiol. 2010 Jan 15;105(2):198-204. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2009.08.672.
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