Q. I have heart damage caused by a virus. They say I must keep my cholesterol lower than most, because of the cardiac damage I already have. My last two cholesterol readings were 240 and then 260. My doctor argued I could eat grass and not lower my cholesterol into the desired range.
I was determined not to take statin drugs and started on red yeast rice and Coenzyme Q10. Last week I went to my primary care provider for blood work and got the lecture that these “natural” products would not help me. I have been taking them 3 months.
The nurse called with my results and I laughed out loud! My total cholesterol was 160. My HDL was 100 and my LDL was 60. So as you can see, I dropped my total cholesterol 100 points in 3 months and have had no side affects.
Most Doctors don’t believe it, because they believe the drug reps and what they tell them. I have to say that my cardiologist is on my side and said it would be fine for me to try red yeast rice. He will be happy when he sees how well I have done!
People need to be careful with statins. They can do more harm than help. If you do take them, you better take the CoenzymeQ10 too. Statins deplete it and leave your heart and body in danger.
A. Thanks for sharing your story. We know that many physicians prefer to prescribe a statin-type medication such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin or simvastatin than endorse red yeast rice (RYR) from the health food store. One reason is that dietary supplements are not well regulated by the FDA. As a consequence you cannot always tell whether the RYR is reliable or free from contamination.
That said, there is research to suggest that red yeast rice can indeed lower cholesterol surprisingly well. A. Several studies have shown that red yeast rice lowers cholesterol better than placebo (Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal, Aug. 2010) and is less likely than a statin drug to cause unpleasant side effects (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009). A recent report published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, April 25, 2012, reported that “None of the participants in our study reported any muscle pains, and no abnormal liver function tests were seen while taking the product [red yeast rice plus phytosterols]. Though this case series is limited by small sample size, study duration, and lack of control group, the product’s significant reduction in ldl cholesterol without severe side effects indicates that this product may be a clinically effective and well tolerated alternative treatment to using statin medications to treat hypercholesterolemia.”
That said, some people do report muscle pain or other adverse reactions after taking red yeast rice. Here is one story:
“I have been taking red yeast rice (RYR) for a couple of years. My cholesterol dropped dramatically, but I began to develop muscle aches and joint pain in my legs and hips.
“Now my pain has become debilitating and constant. Celebrex helped but gave me burning in my stomach, so I stopped it. My pain has become even worse and is affecting my job and my ability to exercise.
“Might it be the RYR? I’ve been to many doctors who have no idea where this pain is coming from. I have been active my whole life and at 59 I feel like I’m headed toward a battle with chronic pain in my lower extremities. Doctors don’t seem to want to admit red yeast rice or statins are the culprit.”
Some people are so susceptible to statins (yes, there are stains in red yeast rice) that even the relatively low dose in a natural product like RYR can trigger symptoms. Other side effects of statins may include:
- Muscle pain & weakness
- Joint pain
- Elevations in blood sugar
- Nerve pain
- Sexual problems (erectile dysfunction & lower libido)
- Digestive distress
- Muscle cramps
- Skin rash and/or itching
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Cognitive impairment, mental fuzziness, forgetfulness
- Transient global amnesia
To learn more about how to control choleserol and triglycerides naturally you may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies of great value. Our Guide to Cholesterol Control & Heart Health also discusses the pros and cons of red yeast rice and other options.
People who are taking red yeast rice or niacin must monitor muscle and joint discomfort carefully as well as liver function. Do not assume that just because you can buy such products in a health food store or pharmacy without a prescription that they are perfectly safe for everyone.