Ancient Chinese remedy lowers cholesterol
Chinese have had an effective cholesterol-lowering substance in their diet
for centuries. Known as red yeast rice, it's used as a flavoring in dishes
like Peking duck.
Red yeast rice is made by fermenting a certain type of yeast on a bed or
rice. Records indicate the Ancient Chinese believed this yeast could improve
heart health. Modern researchers in China tested the effectiveness of this
ancient remedy to confirm its cholesterol-lowering powers.
In one study, researchers gave 600 milligrams (mg) of red yeast rice
twice a day or 1,200 mg of a Chinese herb reputed to have
cholesterol-lowering properties to people with high cholesterol. After eight
weeks of treatment, the people taking the red yeast rice reduced their total
cholesterol an average of 22 percent. The people taking the herb had an
average reduction of only 7 percent.
In the United States, research also supports the effectiveness of red
yeast rice. Pharmanex, a company that manufactures Cholestin, the first red
yeast rice supplement marketed in the United States, helped fund a
double-blind study of Cholestin's effectiveness at the University of
California at Los Angeles. Researchers gave participants 2.4 grams of
Cholestin daily or a placebo. After eight weeks, the people taking the
Cholestin experienced an 18-percent decrease in their cholesterol levels,
and the people taking the placebo experienced no change.
Other brands of red yeast rice supplements are now available in health
food stores, drugstores, through mail order, and on the Internet.
If you decide to try a red yeast rice supplement, don't mix it with your
prescription cholesterol-lowering drug. And don't stop taking your
prescribed medication without consulting your doctor. Talk with him and tell
him you want to try red yeast rice. If he agrees it's worth a try, ask to
have your cholesterol levels checked to see if the supplement is as
effective for you as your prescription.
Although no serious side effects have been documented with the use of red
yeast rice, because it is similar to statin drugs, it may cause some of the
same side effects. According to manufacturer's warning, you shouldn't take
red yeast rice if you :
• are at risk for liver
disease, have active liver disease, or any history of liver disease
• consume more than two
drinks of alcohol a day
• have a serious infection
• have undergone an organ
• have a serious disease or
physical disorder or have recently undergone major surgery
If you prefer the totally natural form, look for red yeast rice at
specialty stores that carry Chinese foods. the natural product isn't
standardized, so you won't know exactly how much you're getting. Don't
substitute it for your prescription cholesterol-lowering drug. However, if
you add it to your regular diet, and it seems to affect your cholesterol
levels favorable, you may be able to cut back on your medication, with your
doctor's guidance and approval.