Many people have found that a Chinese dietary supplements called red yeast rice is easier to tolerate than a prescription drug to lower cholesterol. Some studies show that red yeast rice can also help to control blood fats. But not all red yeast rice products are equally useful.

A team of researchers from and Chestnut Hill Hospital ran tests on 12 different brands of red yeast rice. They found that approximately one-third of the supplements were contaminated with a toxin called citrinin. Although all the products were labeled as containing 600 mg/capsule of red yeast rice, the amount of the active ingredients, called monacolins, varied widely from one to another. Because of limitations in the FDA’s regulation of dietary supplements, consumers are left pretty much in the dark about how much they are getting. The researchers urge patients to let their doctors know if they are taking red yeast rice, so that physicians can monitor for possible side effects and interactions.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, online Oct. 25, 2010]

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  1. abigail

    Consumer lab is useful for brands sold in grocery stores, big box stores and drug stores. I found that it rarely tests brands I need to know about – supplements available at natural food stores.

  2. beau10

    Statins drugs are simply nasty. I was prescribed one and developed every bad side-effect ever noted. I dropped it and the bad side-effects (a friend did the same – except his bad side-effects included a personality change that frightened his wife and she forced him to drop the statin).
    I would like to learn more about the RYR and wish the article also included the brands tested. I can understand the possible legal constraints but it seems the purchase and use of RYR is a crap-shoot as to what you’re actually buying.
    It would be splendid to have a list of every natural supplement, vitamin or other natural source of what can be used in place of a statin. Anyone with any suggestions?

  3. AB

    I suspect the study results aren’t included here or elsewhere because is proprietary – you have to pay to get their data, so others may be restricted from publishing the info. Just a guess…

  4. Sha

    Dr. recommended red rice yeast, don’t remember brand. Had allergic reaction similar to that from MSG.

  5. Finola

    Thank you so much for this information. I hope to find Now Brand at my health food store. The doctors keep increasing my Zocor even though I continue to have muscle pain. The doctor told me that if the pain was from the statins it would show up in my blood work. I was on such a low fat diet that my hair started falling out. The good news is that my cholesterol was the best ever at my last checkup. Unfortunately, I am in too much pain to enjoy the results.

  6. LMT

    I tried red yeast rice – had the worst blood numbers in my life. I have gone off it and am doing better. Usually my numbers are well in the normal range but my cholesterol was 192 so I thought that would lower it but it went up to 223. Has anyone else noticed this??

  7. CF

    Research shows that Red Yeast has less side effects. Studies in China, where the product has more consistency, show that there might be other actions going on to help with cholesterol and reduce risks of heart attack. The statins in the rice are offset by other ingredients and actions that mean the patient can use less of the the Rice statin than a prescription drug to get good results. Do more research on the Rice searching for large studies conducted in China.

  8. jc

    This would be more helpful if we knew which brands were evaluated and their results.

  9. S. Mather

    I’m confused. Is red yeast rice a food or a pill? If it is a food… where does one purchase such a product?

  10. Mary V.

    Although this answer was somewhat helpful, it would have been more helpful to have the names of the best brands of red yeast rice and why they were better. I have trouble with statins and need some alternatives.

  11. marco

    Why don’t they tell you which are the good ones?

  12. SNH

    I can’t fathom why people who are wary of statins would opt for red yeast rice. It is a statin, and neither its purity or its dose are standardized, as pointed out in the article.

  13. nts

    My husband has taken red yeast rice for a number of years with good results and no side effects. It would have been helpful if we had been supplied the names of the brands tested and specific results for each brand so we know which ones appear to have the ingredients listed on the label in the amounts they claim to supply.
    The one my husband takes is Now brand with 600 mg red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus) with 210 mg milk thistle (Silybum marianum), 100 mg Alpha Lipoic Acid, and 60 mg Coenzyme Q10 (as Ubiquinone). He began taking RYR on the recommendation of a medical doctor after my husband had gone through what seemed like hell to him with niacin only to discover it had not made a difference to his his cholesterol.
    Husband had refused to go on a prescription statin drug. (Already alarming side effects were surfacing, and that was before some of the latest news). Husband has had amazingly good cholesterol readings. In fact, at his last physical the doctor looked at his report and said, “Your cholesterol is great – what is it I have you on?” He looked in the file and was surprised to see RYR. This is not the doctor who put him on RYR in the first place.
    We moved across the country and had to find a new doctor. We are very happy with this new physician, but he is less convinced about RYR than the one who recommended it.
    Until someone can show conclusively that there is a problem with his taking RYR, he’ll keep on. Can’t argue with results and his apparent good health.

  14. JW

    Is there any way to find out results by brand? For example, which ones were contaminated?

  15. Judy Z

    Your readers might appreciate more information about It is well worth the fee to join and learn about the types of herbs and vitamins — what they do and which ones do not pass their testing.

  16. D M

    Since I do not tolerate statins, I take half the dose recommended on the label of red yeast rice. My doctor is aware that I am taking it and he has said to keep on “doing whatever I’m doing” because it’s working. I also eat a grapefruit daily with his knowledge.
    I’m 82, a type 2 diabetic, in “good health” (if anyone 82 years old with diabetes can be in good health). I have regular check-ups with a podiatrist & a dermatologist and make sure that they share their information about my condition with each other. They each also know everything I take-prescriptions, vitamins, herbal supplements and foods that may interact.
    I think this can be a major problem with multiple health care providers if they aren’t aware of what the other is prescribing. Funny thing is that my primary care doc doesn’t know about medicinal herbs but his wife, an RN who manages his office does! I also have been taking 4 poke berries daily for many years for my arthritis after learning about it from locals. It works fine and my doc told me that it was safer than the prescription medications for arthritis. I had the berries checked for toxicity when I started taking them.

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