Friday, October 29, 2010

Red Yeast Rice Supplements for High Cholesterol

People are always on the search for "natural" ways to stay healthy and reduce cholesterol.  Chinese red yeast rice supplements have been touted as a natural, safer way to lower cholesterol compared to statin medications.  The yeast that grows on a particular type of rice contains a family of substances called monocolins, which lower cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol production in the liver in the same manner as prescription statin drugs.  Some studies have shown as much as a 15% drop in cholesterol.

All of this sounds good until you dig a little deeper.  Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and a new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that different brands of red yeast rice supplements showed dramatic variation in levels of active ingredients.  Furthermore some contained toxic manufacturing byproducts.

The researchers analyzed capsules from a dozen different manufacturers.  They found the consistency was far from standard, even thought they all were labeled as containing 600mg of red yeast rice extract.
The total monacolin levels per capsule varied from 0.31mg to 11.15mg.  Four brands showed levels of citrinin, which is toxic to the kidneys, with ranges from 24 to 189 ppm. (parts per million).  Citrinin is produced by Monascus, Penicillium and Aspergillus species.

Unfortunately, the authors of the Archives study did not share the names of the supplements with the readers so we are left to ponder!

Say what you will about pharmaceutical drugs, I think we all benefit from the FDA oversight and knowing that there is some standardization and safety in manufacture and distribution.  Supplements can range from completely ineffective to potentially dangerous with contaminants or unknown side effects.

Red Yeast Rice Supplements should be used with caution.

22 comments:

KM said...

Thanks for informing us about this, it must be new info. because earlier this year my doctor suggested I could try using Red Rice Yeast.

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People are always looking for natural ways to stay healthy and lower cholesterol. Chinese red yeast rice supplements has been touted as a safe and natural way to lower cholesterol than statins. Yeast, which grows particularly rice contains a family of substances called monocolins, which lowers cholesterol by blocking cholesterol production in the liver in the same way as prescription statins.

Toni Brayer, MD said...

KM: Yes, this is new info as noted from a new study.

daphne said...

I tried red rice yeast and for me it's good. Well or those People taking red yeast rice who develop muscle pain or tenderness should discontinue the product immediately and check with their doctor.

"Guppy" Honaker said...

Dr. Brayer: Hi again! I have a question about this. We make our own sourdough bread (our own home-ground wheat) from natural yeast in the air. Can one use red yeast for bread baking? My wife's cholesterol is getting a little too high - I would like to try this. Also, you said in the final statement that it should be used with caution. Why?

- David

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Toni Brayer, MD said...

Guppy Honaker(David): Cooking with Red Yeast would be fine. The study looked at manufactured supplements and both the amount of active ingredient and the purity of the preparation was the problem. If you can find active red yeast, neither of those issues would be of concern.

One warning! We San Franciscans take our Sourdough very seriously. I am not sure red yeast would produce good sourdough. Just sayin....

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Thanks for informing us about this, High cholesterol people should start using Red Yeast Rice....Good Post!!!

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QUOTE:
"Say what you will about pharmaceutical drugs, I think we all benefit from the FDA oversight and knowing that there is some standardization and safety in manufacture and distribution."

Really? Am I the only one who has read about all the recalls of previously approved drugs after they had harmed or killed thousands of people? I don't trust either FDA -approved drugs or over-the-counter supplements. I think I'll just stick with real, natural whole foods.

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One warning! We San Franciscans take our Sourdough very seriously. I am not sure red yeast would produce good sourdough. Just sayin....

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