Red yeast rice is a fungus that grows on starchy foods. It was discovered to be especially useful to the ancient Chinese for making rice wine, used as a food preservative and also was used for its medicinal properties. It is still used today in traditional Chinese medicine and as a food coloring. Until recently, the nutritional and medicinal properties of red yeast rice were not fully appreciated by the Western world. This ancient remedy has demonstrated an exciting potential for treating a patently modern disorder: high cholesterol. Recent studies have identified red yeast rice as a beneficial supplement for maintaining a healthy balance of cholesterol and related fatty lipids in the body.
Hyperlipidemia is an elevation of one or more of the following: cholesterol, cholesterol esters, phospholipids, or triglycerides. Although cholesterol has received much negative press, in normal quantities, it is essential for life. Accumulating evidence has linked elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) to the development of coronary heart disease. But cholesterol by itself is not the problem. Research has shown that abnormalities in the way cholesterol is transported in the blood are the culprits in setting the stage for arteries to become damaged and clogged with plaque. (This is the condition known as “atherosclerosis.”)
A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology reviewed approximately 1,400 clinical charts and identified 25 patients who were treated with red yeast rice for at least 4 weeks when previously other lipid-lowering medications could not be tolerated. The treatment was tolerated by 92 percent of the patients and 56 percent achieved their LDL cholesterol goal. The researchers concluded the study demonstrated significant LDL cholesterol reductions with red yeast rice and could be an acceptable alternative for patients highly intolerant to the daily use of other lipid-lowering medications.1
1 Venero CV, Venero JV, Wortham DC, et al. Lipid-lowering efficacy of red yeast rice in a population intolerant to statins. Am J Cardiol. Mar2010;105(5):664-6.