Many people have found that a Chinese dietary supplements called red yeast rice is easier to tolerate than a prescription drug to lower cholesterol. Some studies show that red yeast rice can also help to control blood fats. But not all red yeast rice products are equally useful.
A team of researchers from consumerlab.com and Chestnut Hill Hospital ran tests on 12 different brands of red yeast rice. They found that approximately one-third of the supplements were contaminated with a toxin called citrinin. Although all the products were labeled as containing 600 mg/capsule of red yeast rice, the amount of the active ingredients, called monacolins, varied widely from one to another. Because of limitations in the FDA’s regulation of dietary supplements, consumers are left pretty much in the dark about how much they are getting. The researchers urge patients to let their doctors know if they are taking red yeast rice, so that physicians can monitor for possible side effects and interactions.
[Archives of Internal Medicine, online Oct. 25, 2010]