red yeast rice, risk of red yeast rice, red yeast rice safe, statins compare, red yeast rice side effects

Cholesterol is not the only risk factor that is important for heart health, but it remains an important indicator. People with heart disease need to take care not to let their dangerous LDL cholesterol get out of control. As a result, many of them end up taking a statin-type cholesterol-lowering medication. Unfortunately, not everyone tolerates such medications well. How do statins compare to other ways of lowering cholesterol?

How Do Statins Compare to Red Yeast Rice?

Q. I am a woman who had a heart attack and bypass surgery two years ago. I was then prescribed three different statins, one at a time. They all caused me severe pain. Nevertheless, I had to continue.

Last summer, I noticed that I could not use my right leg to get out of the pool. When I attempted to use my right leg, holding the handrail did not help. It was impossible. I mentioned it to the cardiologist, but he did not appear concerned. I just let it go and only used my left leg to get out of the pool at the gym.

Then last summer I fell twice with no warning. And I again fell during our summer vacation this year. I believe these falls are also related to the statin.

Finally the cardiologist agreed to place me on red yeast rice instead of a statin. So far, so good. I am regaining the strength in my right leg. I can now use it to get out of the pool.

My concern is that a friend took red yeast rice for a few months and lost the strength in his arms. He stopped it and is in recovery mode now. Is muscle weakness a side effect of red yeast rice?

Red Yeast Rice and Muscle Reactions:

A. Statin-linked muscular damage appears to be, in part, related to dose. Red yeast rice (RYR) contains lovastatin, although it is present in lower doses than those found in conventional prescription drugs. There is evidence that it can lower LDL cholesterol (Cicero et al, Nutrition & Metabolism, Sept. 25, 2017). Adding phytosterols (plant compounds such as beta-sitosterol) may increase the effectiveness of RYR.

One small trial found that many people who don’t tolerate statins do well on red yeast rice (Becker et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, June 16, 2009).  That said, some people are so sensitive to statin side effects that even RYR causes pain and muscle weakness (Philibert et al, Therapie, Oct. 27, 2016). Some physicians are adamant that RYR is not an appropriate substitute for statin therapy (Dujovne, American Journal of Medicine, Oct. 2017).

You may find our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health useful, as it contains other non-statin strategies for controlling LDL.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. Brenda

    I read article on hibiscus in tea,do you know the amount to use for each cup?

  2. Mark

    Red Yeast Rice did nothing for me. After a couple of months I tossed it in the trash.

  3. Jason

    I tried red yeast rice several times, and after 6 months each time, I had substantially-lowered cholesterol along with hip pain that was so bad I could barely function. I did not have the same problem with a 5mg dose of Crestor. My guess is the statin dosage in the Red Yeast Rice was high, which makes me think it’s also dangerous.

  4. Robert
    North Carolina

    I started taking Red Yeast Rice according to dose listed on bottle which seems to keep my cholesterol levels normal with no side effects

  5. carole
    burlington vt

    Many years ago, I reacted to Zocor with a memory problem that was resolved after i stopped taking it. Later,I had a reaction to RYR at which time my liver enzymes were elevated quite a bit and returned to normal after stopping.

    Much later I seemed to tolerate without side effects Crestor. Just wanted to say that natural is not always good or better.

  6. Patricia

    What do you think of NatureMade Cholestoff for lowering cholesterol? I was confused by the mixed opinions on the internet and that you, to my knowledge, have never mentioned it.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.