Red Yeast Rice Extract and Cholesterol

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Some patients cannot take traditional statin medications to lower their cholesterol. This is because many people suffer from statin induced muscle pains. For these patients, new research from two Philidelphia area cardiologists reveals that over the counter dietary supplements may be and alternative. These supplements are readily available at health food stores and pharmacies.

The study was the first double-blind placebo- controlled trial to test the use of red yeast rice in patients who have a history of statin induced muscle pain and weakness. Half of the patients were given a 600 mg capsule of red yeast rice twice a day for six months and the other half of the participants were given the placebo. The patients who were given the red yeast rice capsules also participated in meetings every week for the first three months to learn about heart healthy nutrition, exercise and stress management.

The study found that people receiving the red yeast rice had a more significant drop in LDL, low density lipoprotein, cholesterol than those who received the placebo. The total cholesterol of those taking the red yeast rice also improved more than those taking the placebo. There was no difference in muscle pain scores, weight loss, high density lipoprotein, and liver or muscle enzymes between the two groups.

Over a Thousand Year History in China

Red Yeast Rice Extract has been a staple of Chinese medicine for more than a thousand years. It is made from a fungus that grows on rice. Compounds found in the red yeast rice slow cholesterol production in the liver. Because it is a supplement and is not regulated by the FDA, the medical community is slow to adopt it as an alternative treatment for patients who suffer from statin induced muscle pain and weakness. The study does show that there are natural alternative therapies for certain patients that need another form of treatment because they cannot tolerate statin treatment.

Many patients refuse stating treatment because of the significant side effects. Statins have revolutionized the way doctors can treat cardiac patients, but up to 15% of patients cannot continue their treatments because of muscle pain. Currently that is no agreement in the medical community as to how to treat these patients. It is troublesome for doctors with patients who have a history of heart attacks, strokes or bypass surgeries when the patients have to discontinue their statin usage. The use of red yeast rice is not for everyone, but it can be very helpful in lowering LDL cholesterol in patients who cannot take statin medications.


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