Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Meet the Newest Cholesterol Buster
“In addition to red yeast rice, there are many other herbs that can help bring down your cholesterol. Consider trying an ideal, albeit unusual, holistic supplement-olive leaf. This ancient herb, native to southern Europe, has been shown in clinical studies to reduce cholesterol, and lower blood sugar, blood fats, and blood pressure. It appears to work best when part of a formula. Try Sprunk-Jansen CHOLESTEROL LEVEL, with olive leaf and Japanese loquat.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Before the use of chemical food coloring, red yeast rice was commonly used as red food coloring in Asian cooking.
Doctors who seek to reduce patients’ cholesterol levels with statin drugs face a serious challenge: lack of compliance. Among people who start taking statins, as many as 40 percent stop doing so in less than a year. Cost may be one reason, but side effects are another, even though their existence may be dismissed by many physicians.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego investigated how doctors respond to patient reports of statin-related side effects, which may include debilitating muscle weakness, pain, and memory loss. The findings, published in Drug Safety, might surprise you. Rather than reporting adverse events to the FDA, many physicians deny that the drugs could cause undesirable symptoms, seem not to care, tell patients they are imagining pain, mistakenly attribute symptoms to aging, and refuse to believe or simply ignore patients’ complaints.
A Gentler Remedy
Red yeast rice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and offers a gentler way to lower cholesterol. The earliest documentation of the substance dates back to 800 AD, and later records describe it as a remedy for indigestion, diarrhea, circulation, and spleen health. It is made by fermenting a type of yeast, Monascus purpureus, over red rice.
Human studies since the 1970s have found that red yeast rice can lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, conventional medical practitioners may be unfamiliar with the research, and consequently may view the supplement with skepticism. This is some of the supporting research:
- An eight-week study at the University of California, Los Angeles compared red yeast rice with a placebo in 83 people with high cholesterol. The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that the supplement significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol.
- A review of research, published in Chinese Medicine, examined 93 trials with a total of nearly 10,000 people, and found significant cholesterol-lowering benefits.
- Other research in China, published in the American Journal of Cardiology and other scientific journals, found that among 5,000 people with high cholesterol, red yeast rice significantly reduced rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.
Red yeast rice is recommended for lowering unhealthful cholesterol levels. The lovastatin content of a particular red yeast rice product will likely affect its impact on cholesterol. However, the FDA does not allow manufacturers to specify lovastatin quantities on red yeast rice labels. Try different brands, follow label directions, and see how they work for you, or consult a natural health professional.
Red yeast rice should not be taken with statin drugs. Some experts recommend avoiding grapefruit juice with the supplement. Because red yeast rice has a statin-like effect, it may deplete levels of CoQ10. Take 100 to 200 mg of CoQ10 daily when taking red yeast rice-or use a formula that combines red yeast rice and CoQ10.
Solaray Red Yeast Rice Plus CoQ-10 is one of the few products on the market to combine red yeast rice with CoQ10, which can be depleted by red yeast rice.
Nature’s Plus Herbal Actives Red Yeast Rice, extended release boasts an innovative extended-release system for optimal absorption.