Can Red Yeast Rice Really Lower Cholesterol

Can Red Yeast Rice Really Lower
Red yeast rice (RYR) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for
over 1,000 years, to improve circulation and digestion. However, in the
Western world, RYR has a well-earned reputation for its ability to lower
cholesterol levels. Most type 2 diabetics have problems with their
cholesterol levels.
RYR is also known as Went rice, red fermented rice, red rice koji,
akakoji, red koji rice or anka. 'Koji' in Japanese means 'grain or bean
overgrown with a mould culture', which is an apt description.
Red yeast rice is created by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus
purpureus with rice. Once the rice is combined with the fermenting
yeast, it becomes a bright reddish-purple colour.
In Asia, people eat between 15 to 55 grams of naturally occurring RYR
every day. In Chinese communities around the world, powdered RYR is
used to colour foodstuffs such as tofu, meat, fish, cheese, vinegar and
pastries. It is also added to alcoholic drinks such as Japanese Saki and
Korean rice wines to impart a reddish tinge.
Red yeast rice extract (RYRE) is used to make red yeast rice
The problem with statins
Statins are a class of drugs often prescribed by doctors to help lower
cholesterol levels in the blood in order to prevent heart attacks and
stroke. Studies show that, in certain people, statins reduce the risk of
heart attack, stroke, and even death from heart disease by about 25%
to 35%.
There are two kinds of cholesterol, LDL ('bad' cholesterol) which builds
up plaque in your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attacks and
strokes significantly, and HDL ('good') cholesterol that prevents plaque
build-up by transporting the bad (LDL) cholesterol out of the blood to
the liver, where it is eliminated from the body.
Some people find it difficult to take statins, including this writer, due to
side effects. Instead, I take 1000mg of cod-liver oil and 10mg of
Ezetimibe Teva every day. Ezetimibe Teva is another medicine to lower
increased levels of cholesterol.
The side effects of statins include muscle pain and weakness,
neuropathy, heart failure, dizziness, cognitive impairment, cancer,
pancreatic rot and depression. In my experience, statins slowed my
thinking which I found intolerable. The side effects of RYR are less nasty
and much more acceptable.
RYR contains naturally occurring chemicals called monacolins.
Monacolins block the production of cholesterol. One of these
monacolins, monacolin K, sometimes found in RYR supplements, is an
active statin-like compound with the same chemical makeup as
prescription statins such as lovastatin and mevinolin. Despite this, the
side effects of RYR different and more tolerant than the side effects of
How red yeast rice lowers cholesterol
The monacolin in red yeast rice is less than the equivalent compounds
found in medical statins, so it is highly unlikely that monacolin is the
sole reason why RYR is able to lower cholesterol.
RYR contains other plant compounds such as phytosterols and
isoflavones as well as unsaturated fatty acids. Thus, it is likely that these
substances play a role in red yeast rice's ability to decrease cholesterol.
What is certain is that the red yeast (monacus purpureus) used to make
RYR stops the action of an enzyme that helps in the formation of
cholesterol in the human body, thus reducing cholesterol overall.
The benefits of red yeast rice stretch way beyond reducing high
cholesterol levels:
• Reducing high cholesterol
Reducing muscle fatigue
Improving insulin sensitivity
Reducing obesity
Reducing oxidative stress
Cholesterol reduction and red yeast rice
Supplements of red yeast rice are most often taken to lower
hyperlipidemia, ie high cholesterol.
There are many studies proving the effects RYR extracts have on
cholesterol. The average benefits found by comparing the results of
dozens of studies are (inconsistencies aside) as follows:
1. 2 grams a day lowers LDL cholesterol levels by 26% in 8 weeks
2. 4g a day lowers LDL levels by 22% and total cholesterol by 16% in
12 weeks
A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology in 2010
examined how RYR supplements affected 25 patients who could not
tolerate statins. The results... on average total cholesterol went down
by 13% and LDL dropped by 19%. In addition, the RYR was well
Another study from 2007 in the European Journal of Cardiovascular
Preventions and Rehabilitation described the effects of RYR on 79
patients aged 23 to 65 years with high cholesterol. Some subjects took
600mg of RYR twice a day for 8 weeks, others were administered a
placebo. The subjects who got the RYR showed significantly lower LDL
cholesterol and total cholesterol, at the end of two months, compared
to those who were given the placebo.
Muscle fatigue and red yeast rice
Many statin users complain about muscle fatigue, pain in the muscles
and a real sense of muscle weakness as this writer can attest. Estimates
suggest that 10% to 15% of users of statins experience muscle fatigue.
A study published in May 2018 by the National Institutes of Health in
the USA examined the effects of taking simvastatin or RYR on 60
patients with high cholesterol levels and low to moderate risk of
cardiovascular disease. The muscle fatigue score, the physical activity,
the serum lipid profile and the safety profile were then evaluated.
After 4 weeks of taking either the statin (33 patients) or the RYR (27
patients), the fatigue score was significantly increased in patients
treated with simvastatin, whereas no significant change was observed
in patients receiving red yeast rice. In addition, the physical activity
level was significantly decreased in patients from simvastatin group
when compared to those from red yeast rice group. Similar lipidlowering effects were observed in both groups. The safety profile was
not affected after the treatments.
The study concluded that RYR worked just as well as the statin but with
less fatigue.
Improving insulin sensitivity with red yeast rice
RYR can help maintain normal blood glucose levels.
A study published in 2012 in the World Journal of Cardiology showed
that RYR extract can contribute to the maintenance of normal levels of
blood glucose when delivered in a dietary supplement that also
contains berberine and policosanol to people with metabolic syndrome
compared to those who were just given a placebo.
Metabolic syndrome is a health disorder that involves having a
combination of any three of the following... abdominal obesity,
hypertension, high blood glucose, elevated triglyceride levels, or low
HDL ('good') cholesterol.
After 18 weeks, subjects who took the supplement had a significant
decrease in insulin resistance, as well as both LDL and overall
cholesterol, compared to subjects who had been taking a placebo.
Using red yeast rice to reduce obesity
Obesity and high cholesterol are two common health concerns that
often are found together. Research using animals has found that RYR is
effective when used to treat both these conditions.
In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2015,
researchers segregated animal subjects into five groups... normal diet,
high fat diet with no RYR, and three high fat groups given differing
amounts of RYR. The researchers found that the added RYR prevented
weight gain and improved the atherogenic index of subjects.
The atherogenic index of plasma provides information about
cholesterol ratios in the body. It is used as a marker to predict the risk
of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
The researchers concluded that RYR has therapeutic potential in
treating obesity and hyperlipidaemia, i.e. too much fats (lipids) in your
blood such as cholesterol.
Reducing oxidative stress with red yeast rice
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants
in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that can
react easily with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation.
They can be beneficial or harmful. Oxidative stress plays a major role in
the formation of disease.
In July 2017, results were published by the US Library of Medicine (NIH)
of a double blind, placebo-controlled, randomized trial involving 50
patients with metabolic syndrome and the effects of a supplement
containing both RYR and an extract of olives. The trial found that
supplementing with RYR and olive extract greatly decreased two
significant biomarkers of oxidative damage or stress.
The reduction of these two markers has been associated with a lower
risk of heart disease with persons who have metabolic syndrome that
includes most of us diabetics.
How to use red yeast rice
Finding RYR supplements online or in your health food store is easy.
However, deciding what is the best daily dosage is not so easy.
Most studies use a standard 2,400mg of extract a day, broken into two
or four doses a day of 1,200mg twice a day or 600mg four times a day.
Nevertheless, I have never seen any clinically verified reasons why this
'standard' is justified. However, as an alternative suggestion is not
available, these can be the recommended doses.
Any RYR supplement should be taken with food. It is also best taken
with at least 90-120mg of CoQ10 to prevent you getting a deficiency of
Different manufacturers of RYR supplements use differing strains of
yeast and different fermentation processes. This means that the
amount of monacolins will vary between brands, ranging anywhere
from zero to 0.6% of the final supplement. The trick... read the labels
Possible side effects of red yeast rice
Side effects from taking red yeast rice are usually mild (if there are any
at all) and these can include... headache, upset stomach, heartburn
(acid reflux), gas, or dizziness.
Aching muscles and muscle weakness are also possible, especially if the
RYR supplement contains high levels of monacolin. If you experience
such problems, stop taking the supplement and contact you doctor.
Received medical opinion is that you should not take RYR if you are
already taking... statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs... antifungal
drugs... drugs that suppress your immune system... the antibiotics
erythromycin and clarithromycin... protease inhibitors used to treat
You should also avoid red yeast rice if you have... kidney disease... liver
disease... thyroid issues... musculoskeletal disorders... a high risk of
cancer... a serious infection... had an organ transplant... more than two
alcoholic drinks a day... an allergy or sensitivity to rice, red yeast or any
No one under 20 years of age should take RYR supplements.
Perhaps it would be wise to consult your doctor before you start taking
RYR supplements. If he is already prescribing statins, you should ask
him about switching to RYR supplements.
Paul D Kennedy is a type 2 diabetic. He used his skills as an
international consultant and researcher to find a way to beat his
diabetes using diet alone and, about nine years ago; he stopped taking
medications to control his blood glucose levels. You can find out more