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.
This is partly because red yeast rice, Latin name Monascus purpureus and also called red koji, produces a natural form of statin called lovastatin.
Monascus purpureus is a yeast species that is cultured with rice. It has 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.
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.
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.
Learn more about the health benefits of this and other fermented foods.
Karl M, Rubenstein M, Rudnick C, Brejda J. A multicenter study of nutraceutical drinks for cholesterol (evaluating effectiveness and tolerability). J Clin Lipidol. 2012 Mar;6(2):150-8. Epub 2011 Sep 21.
Liu J, Zhang J, Shi Y, Grimsgaard S, Alraek T, Fønnebø V. Chinese red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus) for primary hyperlipidemia: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Chin Med. 2006 Nov 23;1:4.
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