Red yeast rice

Red yeast rice, also called Went Yeast, has been used for centuries in China as both food and medicine. It is made by fermenting a type of yeast called Monascus purpureus over red rice. In Chinese medicine, red yeast rice is used to lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation, and improve digestion.

Red yeast rice contains chemicals that are similar to prescription statin medications. One of these, called monacolin K, has the same makeup as the drug lovastatin (Mevacor). Doctors prescribe statins to lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Researchers are not sure if red yeast rice lowers cholesterol because of the statin-like chemical or because of other things in red yeast rice, such as unsaturated fatty acids, isoflavones, and phytosterols. But because many red yeast rice supplements did have monacolin, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considered them to be drugs. Manufacturers were supposed to remove any red yeast rice products with monacolin from the market. As a result, many of the red yeast rice products you can buy may not contain monacolin. Unfortunately, there is no way to tell whether a product contains moacolin because it is not listed on the label.

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Review Date: 3/24/2015  

Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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