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Red yeast rice: Good for cholesterol?

Statin drugs used for balancing cholesterol levels have a bad reputation for side effects after long-term consumption, even though they are effective. Those who suffer from this catch-22 situation complain of muscle ache, kidney dysfunction, liver and nerve damage to name just a few.

So more and more attention is being given to Chinese herbal remedy, red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus), as it lowers cholesterol naturally with no known toxicity and side effects. In China, red rice yeast is used for treating diarrhea and to increase blood circulation. For hundreds of years, its vivid red hue was used to color food before chemical coloring agents were invented.

Unfortunately, this ancient medicinal wonder does not work on patients with moderate to high cholesterol levels and who have suffered heart attacks, stroke, and diabetes. Candidates who do benefit are those who have mildly rising cholesterol.

Most doctors do not recommend statin drugs as the first line of defense in the treatment process. It’s only when diet, exercise and weight-loss don’t have an effect on achieving optimal levels of cholesterol, then they would start you on prescriptive drugs. In fact, some doctors are advising patients to try red yeast rice supplements if they have adverse reactions to statin drugs or prefer a more natural solution.

How do red yeast rice supplements work?
Derived from red fermented rice, these supplements raise HDL (good cholesterol levels) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol levels), which prevent the clogging of arteries and hence lower the risk of heart attacks.

Has it been scientifically proven that red yeast rice works?
Yes, it has — by both Chinese and Western scientists. The Chinese proved on animals and humans that it reduced total cholesterol levels and raised HDL, but they didn’t have a placebo group to strengthen their study.

However, researchers from UCLA Center for Human Nutrition found that red yeast rice did lower overall cholesterol but concluded it had no significant effect on HDL. The thing is, different trials are done with different brands of supplements so these are not across the board type of conclusions. Like other herbal supplements, there are no uniform guidelines in terms of strength or quality, so you should buy from reputable brands.

Is red yeast rice really safe?
Yes it is. Scientists claim that such supplements are safe because a single ingredient is not isolated to make red yeast rice into tablets or capsules. This takes away negative side effects and rice is a staple for Asians for centuries so it is harmless to the body in terms of toxicity.


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