Red Yeast Rice
What is Red Yeast Rice for?
Red yeast is the product of rice fermented with Monascus purpureus yeast. Red yeast supplements are different from red yeast rice sold in Chinese grocery stores. People use red yeast as medicine.
Red yeast is used for maintaining desirable cholesterol levels in healthy people, reducing cholesterol in people with high cholesterol, for indigestion, diarrhea, improving blood circulation, and for spleen and stomach health.
In foods, red yeast is used as a food coloring for Peking duck.
The active ingredient in red yeast is the same as the active ingredient in prescription drugs called statins used for high cholesterol. That’s why red yeast has all the possible side effects, drug interactions, and precautions associated with this type of drug. The American Heart Association warns against using red yeast until the results of long-term studies are in. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to take red yeast.
You may have come across a red yeast product called Cholestin, manufactured by Pharmanex. It was one of the most widely studied red yeast products. Originally, Cholestin contained the same active ingredient found in statin drugs. This caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call Cholestin an unapproved drug. Cholestin was reformulated so that its active ingredient is now something else.
What is Red Yeast Rice Possibly Effective for?
• Lowering high cholesterol. Some research showed that taking a specific red yeast product for two to three months could significantly lower total and “bad cholesterol” (low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol) levels and triglycerides (another type of blood fat). But, this specific product contained large amounts of a chemical similar to "statin" drugs, such as lovastatin. Statins are approved by the FDA to lower cholesterol. In the U.S., the FDA now considers this product and other red yeast products that contain statins to be illegal unapproved drugs. However, outside the U.S., these specific red yeast products are still available. Some red yeast products available in the U.S. these days contain little or no statins. It is not known if these products do much to reduce cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. Some other products still contain significant amounts of statins. One analysis shows that that some of these products can contain up to 5 mg of statins per tablet.
• Lowering high cholesterol and triglyceride levels caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease (AIDS).
• Improving blood circulation.
• Spleen and stomach problems.