Practitioners of Chinese Medicine have used red yeast rice for centuries. It has been suggested that red yeast rice can increase blood circulation and help with digestive issues. It is a product of fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over red rice.
Benefits of Red Yeast Rice
This type of rice has various amounts of naturally occurring substances called monacolines. Monacolin K also known as lovastatin or mevinolin with LDL ( low density lipoprotein) cholesterol lowering properties— is the main monacolin in Monascus purpureus-fermented rice (75-90 % of total monacolin content).
There are also other active ingredients in red yeast rice that may affect blood cholesterol including sterols (beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, sapogenin), isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids.
A prospective, double-blind study have shown a reduction of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides and total cholesterol in patients on red yeast rice compared with the placebo treated group.
Red yeast rice treated group has not shown any changes of HDL (high density lipoprotein) compared to patients who did not take any red yeast rice .
Another study looked at the effects of a red yeast rice extract XZK (Xuenzhikang), on 5000 patients with a prior heart attack. Treatment with 300 mg XZK reduced LDL-C significantly by 20% compared to baseline, as opposed to 3.5% in the placebo group. The treatment group also showed a highly significant decrease in frequency of major heart related events.
Not All Red Yeast Rice Preparations are Beneficial
Monacolin K is in the red yeast rice extract and an active part of lovastatin, a commercially available statin. But unfortunately, not all strains and preparations of the red yeast rice deliver the same value and purity.
A study that evaluated the contents of 12 preparations of commercially available red yeast rice has shown a wide range of monacolin contents from 0.31 to 1.15 mg per capsule and four of preparations had elevated levels of potentially kidney toxins.
Because of lack of standardization and regulation this supplement shows a significant variation efficacy and safety.
Side- effects of Red Yeast Rice
There are report of muscle pain, liver toxicity, bleeding (especially if taken with other blood thinners), rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of the muscles), bloating, headache and dizziness. There have been reports that red yeast rice could reduce body’s Coenzyme Q10 level and therefore result in muscle discomfort and pain.
A conclusive data about long-term safety of this treatment is lacking. The consumption of this nutritional supplement should be under direct supervision of a physician.
European Commission Opinion Regarding Red Yeast Rice
The European panel concluded that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of monacolin K from red yeast rice and maintenance of normal blood LDL cholesterol concentrations.
The Panel considers that in order to obtain the claimed effect, an individual needs a daily dosage of 10 mg of monacolin K from fermented red yeast rice. The target population is adults in the general population.
Red yeast rice may have some cholesterol-lowering properties. But due to lack of sufficient research and standardization of this product, currently, no medical organization recommends a regular consumption of this supplement.