RED YEAST RICE
Alternate names for this product are Monascus purpureus and Hong Qu (pronounced hong tchew). Doctors are not likely to suggest its use since their education has been directed toward the use of the products from the pharmaceutical industry. They make their money by selling you prescriptions, not sending you to a health food store. RYR is a traditional Chinese food, not a prescription drug. It contains a compound called Monacolin K (also known as mevinolin), the same active agent as in lovostatin, but in much lower levels. Lovostatin is the generic name for the active ingredient in the drugs Mevacor and Altocor. RYR is safer to use than prescription drugs and costs much less. Because of its important place in cholesterol control, this page will be devoted to covering it in detail.
This product is white rice fermented by a strain of Red Yeast called Monascus purpureus. It has long been used in culinary applications in Asian style foods, such as Peking Duck; it is the red border on Chinese spare ribs; it is used to make a type of red sake, and it is used for coloring other Asian foods. It has also been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to help maintain a healthy heart and circulatory system.
This dietary supplement made its entrance onto the the natural healthcare scene when the Federal District Court in Utah ruled, on February 17, 1999, that this product is not a drug but a dietary supplement. The decision came in a suit brought against the FDA which had declared the product an unapproved drug. Learn more about how the FDA works against the public interest at RYR and the FDA. Since the FDA hopes to ban this product permanently, you should purchase a future supply now.
There is a wide variation in the formulation of various brands. Some have been found to have very little active ingredients. For a small fee, you can become a member of www.consumerlab.com and get their helpful comparisons of available brands.
What the research says. Red Yeast Fermented Rice Extract is known to work in two ways: it inhibits the action of HMG-CoA reductase, the enzyme that the liver uses to make cholesterol. It is typically taken in a dosage of no more than 10mg of mevinolin per day. This is much lower than the prescription drug lovastatin, which is typically taken at 20-80 mg/day. Do not confuse this dosage with total capsule weight, which is typically 400 or 600mg. Find out how much active ingredient is in the capsule. It is advisable to start with a low dosage and see how that works before going higher.
In addition to inhibiting the biosynthesis of cholesterol, RYR contains at least 11 other natural phytochemicals (chemicals derived from plants), such as betasitosterol, stigmasterol, isoflavones, and monounsaturated fatty acids, which provide greater cholesterol reducing activity than lovastatin therapy alone. It was this product that led to the development of the entire class of "statin" drugs. When drug companies isolate an ingredient from plants and discard everything else as "impurities", they are also discarding substances which could reduce the side effects of using the drug. The various substances in a natural product often have different actions that work together to maximize the good effect with less toxicity. Drug companies just isolate and concentrate a naturally occurring plant chemical and then seek a way to produce a synthetic version. They end up with a product that is far more toxic than the natural version. It is also patentable, and that is the reason for the entire process.
A number of animal and human studies conducted in China since 1995 have found that Chinese Red Yeast Rice consumption reduces blood cholesterol levels in a range of 11-32% and triglycerides 12-19%. A study (see below) conducted at UCLA and published in the February, 1999 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that test subjects who received RYR had a significant reduction of cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol after 8 weeks of treatment, as compared to a placebo. Researchers observed no adverse effects in test subjects and found no changes in liver and renal function tests, which were conducted before and after the study.
Precautions. Nevertheless, this product should still be used with a little caution. In theory, there is a small risk of liver damage and also of rhabdomyolysis, a condition that includes muscle deterioration. However, there appear to be no actual reports of such problems. People taking this or any statin product may wish to have a baseline liver enzyme check and have their liver enzymes checked periodically thereafter. Red Yeast Rice should not be combined with any other cholesterol or lipid-lowering drugs. Also, RYR should not be combined with erythromycin, the class of drugs called "fibrates," or high-dose niacin because of potential side effects. Its use should also be discontinued before any surgery, just as a precaution.
Since RYR is ignored by mainline medicine, few tests have been done to see if it reacts unfavorably with other drugs. Therefore, it should not be taken if you are using any highly reactive and unpredictable drugs like Coumadin. RYR should be considered by those who need a statin-like product to lower their cholesterol but who do not want to take the dangerous statin products of the drug industry.
The enzymes in grapefruit or grapefruit juice can boost the body's absorption of many different drugs, including cholesterol-lowering drugs like lovastatin. Blood levels of lovastatin increase up to 15-fold when taken with grapefruit juice. This can cause kidney failure and/or a form of muscle atrophy known as rhabdomyolysis. While there is no evidence that this can occur when using red yeast rice, it is still prudent not to take it with grapefruit juice. Some cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as lovastatin, inhibit the body's production of CoenzymeQ10, an antioxidant. If you are concerned about this, you can take CoQ10 supplements.
The body makes CoQ10 from the amino acids tyrosine and methionine. CoQ10 sources include fish, fish oils, vegetable oils, organ meats and the germs of whole grains, which are also the best source of vitamin E, which synergistically enhances CoQ10ís effects. When taking a dietary supplement of CoQ10 it is important to use a formulation that the body can readily absorb. Scientists at the State University Hospital in Copenhagen, who have considerable experience with Q10, use only Q10 which has been dissolved in soya oil and made up in a soft gelatin capsule. Studies have shown this formulation produces optimal and reliable bio-availability. One experiment showed that Q10 in soft gelatine capsules increased the level in the blood 2.7 times. Granular or powder forms were much less effective, and Q10 in tablet form had no measurable effect on blood levels.
Dosage. The suggested daily serving on the label of our product is 2-4 per day. There are 60, 600 mg capsules per bottle. The amount of active ingredient from various manufacturers can vary tremendously. Some products have been found to have no active ingredient at all. Shoppers have no way to know this because the FDA, in its effort to protect the profits of the drug companies and their statin drugs, does not allow the amount of active ingredient to be stated on the label. Try to buy a reputable brand from a natural foods store and not the cheapest thing you can find on a drugstore shelf. If you do not get the results you expect, change to another brand.
Taking one capsule at breakfast and the same at dinner is a good way to start. This can then be adjusted upward or downward in accordance with your needs. You should probably not take more than four RYR capsules per day. If only one capsule is taken, it is advisable to take it at dinner, since the body manufacturers most of its cholesterol at night. It is possible to take both RYR and policosanol at the same time.
More information. For detailed information about scientific studies on RYR, see RYR Studies.