Red Yeast Rice: Chinese Secret for Lower Cholesterol

Author: Alessandra Grigioni
Date: 15/06/2014


Grigioni Alessandra e Dezarlo Lorena


The Chinese have been using red yeast rice to improve heart health for centuries. Only recently has this remedy become an accepted means of improving heart health in the West. Red yeast rice lowers cholesterol when consumed in moderation. Lower cholesterol levels are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and blood clots.

What Is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is a substance obtained when a specific type of Chinese rice is fermented with Monascus purpureus yeast. It has a natural red color and is used as a food coloring and preservative. It has been sold as a healthy remedy and supplement in China for many years, red yeast rice was described in an ancient Chinese list of drugs as useful for improving blood circulation and for alleviating indigestion and diarrhea. Recently, red yeast rice has been developed by scientists as a product to lower blood lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides.


Production Process and Composition Of Chinese Red-Yeast-Rice Dietary Supplement

Health Benefits and Clinical Impact of Major Nutrient, Red Yeast Rice,June 2010

How Does Taking Red-Yeast-Rice Affect Cholesterol Level?

The enormous scientific and economic interest surrounding red rice is linked to the presence of Monascus purpureus; during its fermenting activity, this yeast is in fact enriched by a group of substances, called monacolins, which have been scientifically associated with marked hypocholesterolemizing activity. Among these, monacolin K stands out, as it reflects the chemical structure and pharmacological action of lovastatin (a drug belonging to the statin category).

Similarly to these pharmaceutical products, the monacolin K of red rice is capable of inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, which represents a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of cholesterol. As its plasma levels depend above all on this biosynthetic pathway (and only to a lesser extent on diet): integration with fermented red rice has proved effective in normalizing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Inhibition of HMG-CoA reductase, a key enzyme in th biosynthesis of cholesterol

Fermented red rice is more effective with respect to the administration of equivalent dosages of lovastatin, proving that its properties reflect a combination of actions that cannot be attributed solely to monacolin K. Also for this reason, besides its well-documented hypolipidemizing activity (Lin CC et al. Efficacy and safety of Monascus purpureus Went rice in subjects with hyperlipidemia; Eur J Endocrinol et al. The beneficial effects of lipid-lowering therapy with Xuezhikang on cardiac events and total mortality in coronary heart disease patients with or without hypertension: a random, double-blinded, placebo controlled clinical trial; Huang CF et al. Efficacy of Monascus purpureus Went rice on lowering lipid ratios in hypercholesterolemic patients ) fermented red rice seems to reduce cardiovascular risk due to antiatheroschlerotic activities of other type .
Controlled fermentation in the laboratory can also slightly vary the composition of Monascus purpureus and allow the selection of strains rich in Monacolin K or other substances having particular pharmacological actions.
Cholesterol-loweing effect s of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement,1999
Red yeast rice | University of Maryland Medical Center,2012

These studies support the claim that red yeast rice lowers cholesterol:

• A 2008 study compared people with high cholesterol who took fish oil and red yeast rice with people who took a standard dose of simvastatin (Zocor). The red yeast rice contained lovastatin (Mevacor), but at a lower dose than the prescription drug. Cholesterol levels went down in both groups.

• One study by UCLA School of Medicine involved 83 people with high cholesterol levels. Those who took red yeast rice over a 12 week period had lower levels of total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (fats in the blood) compared to those taking placebo. "Good" HDL cholesterol levels did not change in either study group.

• A study presented to the American Heart Association showed that red yeast rice lowered LDL cholesterol. In the study, 187 people had mild-to-moderately high levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. The study showed that taking red yeast rice reduced total cholesterol by more than 16%, LDL cholesterol by 21%, and triglycerides by 24%. HDL cholesterol also went up by 14%.

• In another 8-week study of 446 people with high cholesterol, those who took red yeast rice had a drop in cholesterol levels compared to those who took placebo. Total cholesterol fell by 22.7%, LDL by 31%, and triglycerides by 34% in the red yeast rice group. HDL cholesterol went up by 20% in the red yeast rice group as well.

Tolerability of Red Yeast Rice Products:

Two studies supported by NCCAM have indicated that some people who had been unable to tolerate statin drugs because of side effects (muscle pain or weakness) were able to tolerate red yeast rice. It is uncertain whether the smaller amount of monacolin K in the red yeast rice products, as compared with the amounts of active ingredients in the drugs, accounted for the greater tolerability or whether other factors were responsible.

Tolerability of red yeast rice (2,400 mg twice daily) versus pravastatin (20 mg twice daily) in patients with previous statin intolerance,2010

Red yeast rice for dyslipidemia in statin-intolerant patients: a randomized trial,2009

Side Effects of Red-Yeast-Rice:

Side Effects of Red-Yeast-Rice are rare but can include:
• Headache
• Stomach ache or bloating
• Gas
• Dizziness
• Heartburn

Red yeast rice | University of Maryland Medical Center,2012

Other Properties:

• Strengthens the immune system through the action of flavonoids

• Helps to prevent anxiety and stess because it contains GABA

• Alleviates respiratory disorders because it contains saponin

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