Q. What are the pros and cons of taking a supplement like red yeast rice to help lower LDL cholesterol? Are there side effects? Is it safer than prescribed medication such as atorvastatin?
A. Red yeast rice (RYR) contains statins, including lovastatin, the primary ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor. Studies have demonstrated that RYR can lower LDL cholesterol about as well as some statin-type drugs (American Journal of Cardiology, Jan. 15, 2010).
Although there is evidence that many people tolerate RYR better than statins, there are others who are so sensitive that they experience side effects such as joint or muscle pain and weakness.
We are sending you our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health for more details on red yeast rice, other non-drug approaches to reducing cholesterol and the pros and cons of statin drugs.
The FDA does not oversee supplements, so there is no good way to assess quality. Some red yeast rice products have been contaminated with a toxin called citrinin, so you may want to check product recommendations from ConsumerLab.com.

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  1. Lorraine T,
    Reply

    Rather than put me on medication, my doctor recommended that I take red yeast rice twice a day after meals. I take one after breakfast and supper. My cholesterol is great now and I will continue with the RYR to keep it that way.

  2. N.L. Whicker
    Reply

    What are some suggestions for lowering cholesterol without statin drugs – I can not take them but really need to lower mine.
    Thank you.

  3. RLozano
    Reply

    Statins, then red yeast rice made me extremely aggressive (50 yr old male), a rage that’s difficult to control. Suspect what causes it is stress on the liver. Prior alcohol drinker in my youth. A change in my diet lowered my high cholesterol. Also with this body it’s easy to tell if my cholesterol is elevated, my memory and mental processes suffer.

  4. CD
    Reply

    Plant sterols don’t give any side effects and the LdL goes down very well and fast.

  5. Lewis M
    Reply

    My genetically-elevated cholesterol is normally about 280, and my Integrative Physician suggested red yeast rice. I tried several brands, but only Herbal Actives was effective. It worked very well for more than a year, bringing my cholesterol down to about 180. Then the muscle pain began and grew worse. I finally had to give up on the RYR. It took three weeks for the muscle pain to finally stop. (69 yr-old male) Incidentally, although my cholesterol is high, my blood pressure is quite good and there is no evidence of atherosclerosis.

  6. Lorraine T.
    Reply

    My doctor suggested that I take Red Yeast Rice, one in morning and one in the evening (after meals) for my high cholesterol. I’ve been on it for a while now and my cholesterol problem in no more. I definitely recommend Red Yeast Rice, with your doctor’s approval.

  7. Carolyn K.
    Reply

    Red yeast rice did help lower my cholesterol, but my doctor was concerned about consistency of the ingredients. He put me on a generic statin instead, and it ends up being cheaper.

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