Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol – Is It Both Effective and Safe?


The effect of red yeast rice on cholesterol can be effective, but there are some important things to be aware of before if you decide to venture down this road.

Besides learning more about the relationship between red yeast rice and cholesterol, on this page you will also read about:

  • Are there risks associated with red yeast rice?
  • Are there potential red yeast rice side effects?
  • Is there an optimal red yeast rice dosage?

All these questions and more are answered on this page with research-based facts about red yeast rice and cholesterol.

Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol

Red yeast rice and cholesterol levels.Red yeast rice can be obtained from rice that has been fermented with a special type of yeast known as Monascus pupureus.

The Chinese have been using it for many centuries as a traditional remedy, and it has been popular throughout the rest of Asia as well. You can actually use the substance as a coloring for your food, as a preservative, or as an additive.

The ingredients that are believed to help control your cholesterol problems include:

  • Monounsaturated fatty acids (usually considered the ‘good’ kind of fat)
  • Monacolins (particularly monacolin K)
  • Sterols (awesome plant substances that help to control cholesterol)
  • Isoflavones (which are powerful antioxidants)

Is Red Yeast Rice a Drug or a Supplement?

Well, briefly put, it depends on the amount of monacolin K present in the red yeast rice. The FDA has decided that if a red yeast rice product contains a “substantial amount” of monacolin K, then it is considered an unapproved new drug, not a natural dietary supplement.

Monacolin K is also called lovastatin and is used in prescription drugs. But since red yeast rice is actually a natural substance, it may also be seen as a natural supplement. Hence the confusion.

The FDA has actually asked that red yeast rice products that contain “substantial amounts” of monacolin K to be removed from the market, as they will also automatically thus contain lovastatin. However, despite this withdrawal, many people continue to bring red yeast rice back from their overseas travels, or they just buy it online in order to obtain the benefits without having to take the medications.

Does Red Yeast Rice Lower Cholesterol?

Now the question has to be posed, “Does red yeast rice lower cholesterol, or is it all a hoax?”

The answer to that question … it may depend!

According to some clinical studies with red yeast rice containing a “substatial amount” of monocolin K, the tested products lowered both total cholesterol levels as well as LDL cholesterol levels (the ‘bad’ cholesterol). But whether it works with products with little monocolin K content is still not certain.

Remember that the main ingredient (monocolin K) that works in the red yeast rice is lovastatin, which is the same ingredient that is contained in statins. Statins are drugs that are prescribed by doctors to help control cholesterol, and it is effective at lowering both triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the blood.

The way it works is by inhibiting the enzyme that is responsible for producing cholesterol in your liver. The less of this specific enzyme that there is in your liver, the less cholesterol is produced. The decrease in the production of the enzyme is directly related to the decrease in cholesterol production, and this is why statins are so effective and thereby so commonly prescribed.

The Risks of Red Yeast Rice

As the red yeast rice contains the ingredient that is found in statins – lovastatin – you run the same risks as you would if you were taking these medications. Some of the most common side effects that happen when taking the red yeast rice include:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating of the abdomen

Many people have also found that their gastrointestinal system has also been affected by the red yeast rice.

These are only a few minor risks of the red yeast rice, but there are some major side effects that will be discussed in the next section.

A thing to keep in mind is that red yeast rice will not be as effective as the prescription drugs. If you are trying to use red yeast rice to correct serious cholesterol problems, you may find that it simply won’t work as well as you want it to. This is because there is much less lovastatin in the red yeast rice than in the prescription medications, which use refined forms of the ingredients.

There are some FDA warnings that tell people not to sell the red yeast rice on the internet, as it can be dangerous. However, many of these warnings have been ignored, and you may not be able to get a safe dosage of the supplement if you buy it online. Most doctors will recommend that you get the prescription drug, as that is the best way to be sure you are getting a safe and effective dosage of red yeast rice.

Red Yeast Rice Side Effects

The risks above are serious enough, but did you know that lovastatin – just like regular statins – can have serious side effects?

One of the main effects that these statins have is causing muscle weakness. The statins can cause a very serious muscle condition rhabdomyolysis, and this can lead to the breaking down of your muscles, and possibly even to kidney failure. There are a number of muscle related problems that can be caused by taking statins, but these problems may not show up for as long as 4 years after the statins are used for therapy for the first time.

In addition, the statins and lovastatin can actually interact negatively with a number of other drugs, such as those used to treat infections, antibiotics, antidepressants, and other medications that work to lower cholesterol. If you are taking these medications, it is important to check with your doctor before taking any red yeast rice that contains lovastatin.

Red Yeast Rice Dosage

Taking the correct red yeast rice dosage ensures that you get just the right amount of lovastatin in your body. Too much can increase the risk of the side effects, while not enough will usually be far less effective than you had hoped for.

One study found that 2.4 grams of the red yeast rice on a daily basis helped to cut down the total cholesterol by 16% and LDL cholesterol by as much as 22%. All of this in just 12 weeks.

Another study revealed that taking 1.2 grams on a daily basis helped to cut down LDL cholesterol by as much as 26% in only 8 weeks.

However, most doctors recommend taking only 1.2 grams of the red yeast rice per day, with only 7 or 8 milligrams of lovastatin being contained in the rice. This will ensure that there is not too much of the lovastatin ingested, but that enough is consumed to actually have an effect on the cholesterol.

However, The Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources added to Food (ANS) takes a very cautions stand and says that “the Panel was unable to identify a dietary intake of monacolins from RYR [red yeast rice] that does not give rise to concerns about harmful effects to health, for the general population, and asappropriate, for vulnerable subgroups of the population.”

So if you are planning on trying red yeast rice, do check with your their doctor beforehand, as red yeast rice act like drugs. Make sure to ask your doctor what the recommended red yeast rice dosage is according to your physical condition.

  • Remember that the red yeast rice may have the same side effects as statin medications, and you should be wary of any of the risks and side effects when taking the supplement.
  • There are no regulations that determine how much lovastatin can be contained in a given product, meaning you have no idea how strong the red yeast rice is until you buy it.

Cholesterol and Triglyceride Lowering Diet

While supplements and medications can be effective, eating right can also be very effective. Want to know how to lower your cholesterol with the right diet? Here are some things you need to know about cutting down on cholesterol and triglyceride in the food you eat:

  • Avoid foods high in cholesterolThere are always going to be foods that are high in cholesterol that you will enjoy more than others, but you have to avoid those just as much as the other ones you dislike. These high cholesterol foods can cause serious problems and aggravate your heart disorder if you continue adding cholesterol to your systems, so cut back on the foods that are high in cholesterol like eggs, meat, dairy, etc.
  • Cut back on the fat in your diet – The less fat you get in your diet, the less fat your body has to turn into triglycerides and cholesterol. If you want to lower your cholesterol, lower the amount of fat you consume on a regular basis. You will have to stop eating processed foods, foods that have been deep fried, foods that contain a lot of refined flour, and sugary foods. Avoid foods that have the word “hydrogenated” on the list of ingredients, and find the foods that are as natural and healthy as possible.
  • Stop eating so much refined carbohydrates – Refined carbohydrates contain a lot of nutrients that will send your triglycerides through the roof, but they contain almost nothing that will nourish your body. Anything that should be a dark color but is white (white flour, white bread, white rice, etc.) should be avoided or replaced with their darker relative.
  • Reduce the amount of alcohol you consume – Drinking is good for your body if you consume alcohol in moderation, usually no more than a drink or two per day. If you drink more, you are filling your body with sugar, calories, and chemicals that will affect your liver. If you have high cholesterol, it is best to drink no more than a single drink every day, as a limited amount of alcohol will help to raise your HDL cholesterol without increasing LDL cholesterol as well.
  • Eat a lot more fiber – Remember that soluble fiber is the key to a low fat low cholesterol diet, and it will help to dispose of all the cholesterol in your body more effectively. It does so by creating a bond with the cholesterol, and the two will go skipping off hand in hand down your digestive system to be eliminated by your body.
  • Eat fewer calories on a daily basis – One of the main things that could be causing the cholesterol problems is the fact that you are eating more calories than your body can turn into energy, so it is storing the rest in the form of fat. Fat causes cholesterol, so your eating too much is the cause of the cholesterol. Eat fewer calories than your body needs in order to be certain that you stay as fat-free as possible.

This cholesterol and triglyceride lowering diet is very effective, and will help you get rid of all the junk in your body as naturally as possible.

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