Hóng Qū ~ Red Rice
Red yeast rice is a fermented rice product that has been used in Chinese cuisine and medicinally to promote “blood circulation” and lower cholesterol . Red Yeast Rice does this as it contains varying amounts of naturally occurring substances called monacolins and plant sterols. Monacolins are produced by the yeast and block the production of cholesterol. This is also known as a HMG CoA reductase inhibitor . Other active ingredients in red yeast rice that may affect cholesterol lowering include sterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, sapogenin), isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids . Plant sterols are naturally occurring plant molecules. Plant sterols interfere with cholesterol absorption in the intestines as they are not well absorbed in the digestive systems as they attach themselves to cholesterol receptors in your intestines. This means that less cholesterol is able to pass from your intestines into your bloodstream. Thereby cholesterol levels in the blood are lowered through these two mechanisms.
Before explaining the studies though, one first needs to understand what normal cholesterol levels are:
|Normal Adult Cholesterol Values||See Your Doctor Right Away Values!|
|Total Cholesterol||<200 mg/dL||>240 mg/dL|
Red Rice Yeast has been shown in multiple studies to lower cholesterol. One such study measured the efficacy of red yeast rice for cholesterol lowering was evaluated in a prospective, double-blind study in which 83 patients with hyperlipidemia (total cholesterol 204 to 338 mg/dL [5.28–8.74 mmol/L], LDL-C 128 to 277 mg/dL [3.31–7.16 mmol/L]) who were not receiving cholesterol lowering therapy were randomly assigned to receive red yeast rice (2.4 g/day) or placebo. The following results were reported:
- The total cholesterol concentration decreased significantly between baseline and eight weeks in the red yeast rice compared with the placebo-treated group (208 versus 251 mg/dL [5.38 vs 6.57 mmol/L]).
- The LDL-C concentration also decreased significantly in the red yeast rice group (135 versus 175 mg/dL [3.49 versus 4.53 mmol/L]).
- HDL-C was unaffected.
Allopathic physicians most commonly treat high cholesterol, Hyperlipediam, with Lovastatin, a statin used to reduce cholesterol. Lovastatin uses monacolin K to reduce cholesterol in patients. Monacolin K is a naturally occurring component of Red Yeast Rice. The average dose of Lovastatin contains about 4.8 mg of red yeast rice. Studies suggest though that the plant sterols in red yeast rice also contribute to red yeast rice’s cholesterol lowering activity .
Beyond the aforementioned study, there are still other studies that have found that red yeast rice lowers total and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) [4,5]. In one randomized trial, patients who had discontinued statin therapy tolerated treatment with red yeast rice, 1800 mg twice daily and achieved significant reductions in LDL cholesterol[4,5].
Of course, any treatment for abnormal cholesterol should be supervised by your primary care physician. And, the best advocate for your healthcare is you. To be the best advocate you can, it’s important to do your research, look at the options and talk with your primary care physician to make the most informed choices possible for your health care.
Dr. Catherine Freeman, DAOM holds a Bachelor of Science in Acupuncture from Bastyr University, a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine from Five Branches University and a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from Five Branches University. She maintains a acupuncture license in Washington state. She owns and operates Acupuncture Garden and Wellness Garden Integrative Medical Clinic in Lake Chelan, Washington.
- Li CL, Zhu Y, Wang Y, et al. Monascus purpureus-fermented rice (red yeast rice): a natural food product that lowers blood cholesterol in animal models of hypercholesterolemia. Nutr Res 1998; 18:71.
- Patrick L, Uzick M. Cardiovascular disease: C-reactive protein and the inflammatory disease paradigm: HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, alpha-tocopherol, red yeast rice, and olive oil polyphenols. A review of the literature. Altern Med Rev 2001; 6:248.
- Heber D, Yip I, Ashley JM, et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement. Am J Clin Nutr 1999; 69:231.
- Wang J, Lu Z, Chi J, et al. Multicenter clinical trial of the serum lipid lowering effects of Monascus purpureus (red yeast) rice preparation from traditional Chinese medicine. Cur Ther Res 1997; 58:964.
- Becker DJ, Gordon RY, Halbert SC, et al. Red yeast rice for dyslipidemia in statin-intolerant patients: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2009; 150:830.