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.