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Does Red Yeast Rice for Lowering Cholesterol Have Side Effects?

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Q. What is your opinion on red yeast rice for lowering cholesterol? I have tried statins and cannot tolerate them.

A. Red yeast rice naturally contains a low dose of various statin compounds and has been shown to lower cholesterol (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009). Although many people tolerate red yeast rice better than a dose of atorvastatin or simvastatin, some do experience serious side effects. One reader wrote:

"At the recommendation of my doctor I took red yeast rice to lower my cholesterol. After a month, my arms and shoulders started to hurt. Even after stopping the supplement, the pain has persisted and it feels like knives sticking into my muscles. I can't lift a mug of coffee without pain."

Some people are so susceptible to statin side effects that even red yeast rice poses a risk. For other natural ways to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease we suggest our book, Best Choices from The People's Pharmacy (online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).

Many commercial red yeast rice formulations vary in strength and quality. According to ConsumerLab.com, some are contaminated with citrinin, a potentially toxic substance. You will want to avoid those if possible. 

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11 Comments

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Which brands of red yeast rice are safe??

How does one know if the formulation is or is not contaminated with citrinin?

People's Pharmacy response: The only way we know is to read the report at ConsumerLab.com
It does cost money, however.

I tried red yeast rice and it was absolutely useless...in fact, my cholesterol level went up.

I have found that the red yeast rice is very effective in lowering my cholesterol. However, I also worry about the contaminates and the quality of the different labels.

My naturopathic physician uses a red yeast rice preparation (tab or cap) that also contains Coenzyme Q10. This is available in health food stores and natural markets.

I used red yeast rice for about 6 months after I was taken off Lipitor and Crestor because of muscle pain in my legs, especially the left one. The red yeast rice kept my cholesterol levels in check, but my leg pain came back big time. It has been several months since I stopped the red yeast rice, but my legs are still not back to normal.

I currently take red yeast rice, 1-1200mg in the morning and the same dosage at night. I was also told to be sure to take Ubiquinol (CoQ10) 100 mg daily with it from information in Alternatives (a monthly publication). My cholesterol total dropped 8 points, LDL dropped 43 points and HDL up 12 points without changing my diet.

I swear by red yeast rice as it lowered my husband's triglycerides 400 points in a few months. HOWEVER... it's IMPERATIVE you get the type without CITRININ. The bottle will be labeled as so. It's also important you get enough -- my husband needs 2 pills 2x a day (can't remember the strength) to keep things in check.

Remember, red yeast rice is still a statin, the original statin, so some will react with pain. It's important to take CoQ10 (I think the therapeutic dosage is 250mg daily) but figure out what your body needs.

As always, your mileage can and will vary.

I used red yeast rice for a long time after having intolerance to Lipitor, Crestor, Pravastatin to name a few. Same side-effects with red yeast rice. Have been off it for about 3 years. I now have arthritis and muscles have not totally recovered. Went off most dairy and eat almonds. This is an hereditary condition for me also. Diet change is not as rewarding but every little bit helps. I used strictly Nature's Bounty to stay consistent and it worked, but the side-effects were more than I could handle.

What is CoQ10 and can this be used with regular statins (prescriptions) - how does this help the muscle problems?

My husband has had horrible problems with statins and after years of searching for help, he quit taking anything. Then a doctor he had been seeing about his problem for over a year suggested he take fenofibrate which is not a statin.

Well, it worked wonders, triglycerides and cholesterol dropped dramatically, and there were no side effects. When I asked why this hadn't been prescribed years ago, we were told because although it makes the numbers look good, there isn't any proof it is doing any good.

Duh, what the heck is that supposed to mean? If the numbers drop why hasn't there been any kind of study done on the benefits/risks? Could it be that the drug companies are making too much money on the crippling statins that are pushed down our throats (physically and literally).

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