Q. I heard on the news that red yeast rice can help lower cholesterol, but I’d like to know more about the pros and cons. Are there dangerous side effects? Someone told me red yeast rice can cause liver problems. Is that true?

A. Red yeast rice is a Chinese product that has been used for centuries in food as a preservative, flavoring and coloring agent. It makes Peking duck red, for example, and is also used in red rice vinegar. It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine for indigestion and to promote blood circulation.

Red yeast rice can lower cholesterol. It contains some compounds related to statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as lovastatin (Mevacor). A recent study in China shows that red yeast rice can nearly halve the risk of a second heart attack (American Journal of Cardiology, June 15, 2008).

Readers like this one have had success with red yeast rice: “I balked for years at taking a statin but my cholesterol continued to rise in spite of my attempts to control it with diet. I tried Pravachol but did not like the way I felt.  My cardiologist suggested I try red yeast rice. Within six weeks my LDL level had dropped from 187 to 123.”

Despite such success, some people experience side effects, including muscle pain and weakness and liver damage. For much more information about red yeast rice and other alternative ways to control cholesterol, we’d like to send you a copy of our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy.

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  1. mwe
    Reply

    What is a good quality brand of Red Yeast Rice Tablets for lowering cholesterol? Ladyliza
    above article did not mention the effective brand used. Thank you

  2. ladyliza
    Reply

    I am a big fan of red yeast rice. My cholesterol went from 230 down to 147 with 3 pills/per day, taken at night.Not all brands of of supplements are alike. I bought my first bottle of red yeast rice at Costco and my cholesterol did not come down much. Then the doctor told me to switch to his brand, and it works!. My doctor is a doctor of integrated medicine so meds are the last thing he tries instead of the first thing he tries.
    There are several good quality companies out there that sell pharmaceutical grade supplements. Jarrow, Now, Pure, etc. You pay more but you will see the difference.

  3. bp
    Reply

    I take red yeast rice and it brought my cholesterol down and I had no side effects.I think its better than statin drugs that cause real problems.

  4. kb
    Reply

    Just a word of caution: I took red yeast rice to lower blood pressure; I got up in the middle of the night for a glass of water, and I passed out; I got up and down I went again. I injured two shoulders. Hope this helps someone.

  5. zen
    Reply

    PLEASE ADVISE ME IF I CAN TAKE
    RED RICE TABLETS ALONG WITH
    CRESTOR WHICH I AM PRESENTLY
    ON ( 10 MGS 1 ONCE A DAY ) ?
    People’s Pharmacy Response: Don’t combine red yeast rice with prescription statin cholesterol-lowering drugs.

  6. Ann W
    Reply

    My 2 friends and I stopped taking our statin drug and went on Red Yeast Rice for 3 months while we continued to watch our diets. It did not lower our cholesterol and we has to go back on the statin drugs.

  7. mls
    Reply

    I tried it because my doctor wanted to put me on cholesterol lowering medication. I took it, but not the recommended dosage and thank goodness at that! It cleaned my colon out in one night. I never read that this could happen. Any comments?

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