Red Yeast Rice And Cholesterol: Natural Remedies For High Cholesterol

by Cindy

Can I Lower Cholesterol Naturally Using Red Yeast Rice Supplements?

High cholesterol is a serious health condition affecting patients with diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Common treatments for high cholesterol levels include dietary changes, weight loss, exercise, and the use of prescription medications. Prescription medications called statins are among the most commonly used and widely accepted medications used in the treatment of hyperlipidemia. Unfortunately, statins are associated with numerous side effects that make these medications difficult to tolerate or a poor choice for certain patients. It is for this reason that many patients with high cholesterol levels seek natural remedies for high cholesterol.

Natural Remedies For High Cholesterol

Weight loss, improved diet and exercise are the cornerstone of treatment for high cholesterol levels.  When these lifestyle modifications fail, many patients turn to natural solutions. 

There are numerous supplements that are marketed to patients with hyperlipidemia with a promise to reduce cholesterol levels naturally. Among the most popular are flax seed oil, omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil and vitamin B3 (niacin).  Gaining in popularity is the ancient Chinese herbal remedy called red yeast rice.

What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is a substance that is that is produced by the yeast called Monascus purpureus. This natural Chinese remedy has been used for centuries in the treatment of many different ailments, such as improving circulation. In recent years, red yeast rice supplements have attracted the attention of the medical community as scientific studies have demonstrated that red yeast rice extract contains a powerful ingredient that is also present in cholesterol medications. 

Scientists have isolated a substance from red yeast rice extract that is an active ingredient in a commonly used prescription cholesterol medication.  Researchers have discovered that red yeast rice naturally produces a substance called monacolin K, which is known to inhibit the cholesterol synthesizing enzyme known as HMG-CoA reductase. 

Red Yeast Rice Cholesterol Lowering Benefits

Multiple studies have been done examining the relationship between this supplement and high cholesterol levels.  At this time, research is promising as these studies have shown that patients taking red yeast rice supplements do see a reduction in bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides.  This effect seems to be amplified when red yeast rice extract is combined with the popular fish oil supplement.  It is important to understand that there are few quality studies that have been done to support the use of this supplement as a natural remedy for high cholesterol.  In addition, side effects and safety profiles for red yeast rice extract supplements are lacking.

Red Yeast Rice Safety

Any patient who is considering taking a red yeast rice supplement must understand that red yeast rice extract is a natural supplement that is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Due to this lack of regulation, it is possible that your supplement may contain variable amounts of active ingredients, unknown additives or contaminants.  Of particular concern is the potential for contamination with a kidney toxic substance citrinin.  Citrinin is a by-product of the fermentation process in red yeast rice and if the supplement is not properly purified it could contain dangerous amounts of this kidney toxic chemical.

Red Yeast Rice Side Effects

In addition, because red yeast rice supplements contain the similar active ingredients to prescription statin medication these substances may cause similar side effects that may include:

  • Abnormal liver function
  • Muscle Pain
  • Weakness
  • Stomach upset
  • Dizziness
  • Allergic Reaction

Red yeast rice supplements can interact with many prescription medications, particularly statins, niacin and other cholesterol medications.  It may also interact with alcohol and some over the counter medications.

Red Yeast Rice Dosage

At this time, the medical community does not recommend the use of red yeast rice supplements for the treatment of high cholesterol.  More studies are needed to learn how this supplements works, what dose is safe and how to avoid serious side effects and medication interactions. 

Current literature suggests that patients who wish to take red yeast rice should take between 1200 to 2400 mg up to twice per day.  However, it is important to understand that the use of this supplement is not recommended by the medical community and using other methods, such as foods to lower cholesterol, may be more acceptable. In addition, this supplement is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, raising concerns about the safety of this supplement.  Patients who are interested in using red yeast rice extract as a natural remedy for high cholesterol should consult their physician prior to starting this supplement.

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