Q. About three months ago, I started taking red yeast rice to reduce my cholesterol. I am 52 and very active. (I walk, run and do Zumba classes.)
In the past two weeks, I have been plagued with muscle pain in my upper arm and legs. I never had these problems before.
I realized last night it might be the red yeast rice. Does it often cause this type of problem?
A. Red yeast rice (RYR) is frequently promoted as a natural way to lower cholesterol. This fungal product contains several statins, not as added drugs but because the yeast makes them.
Many others report similar side effects from RYR. One wrote: “My doctor suggested I could lower my cholesterol with niacin and then a good quality red yeast rice with CoQ10. Both LDL and HDL scores improved a lot, but a recent blood test showed elevated creatine kinase (385).
“I am concerned that RYR damaged my muscles like statins can. Should I be concerned?”
We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health for pros and cons of standard approaches as well as non-drug ways to lower blood lipids.
Creatine kinase is a marker of muscle breakdown. Elevations are worrisome, whether due to statin drugs like atorvastatin, simvastatin or red yeast rice.