The herbal supplement red yeast rice has been touted in the news
recently for its alleged ability to decrease harmful LDL cholesterol
levels. Some reports have gone so far as to say that red yeast rice
may someday be a therapeutic alternative to the conventional statin drugs that many people take to control high cholesterol.
A study in the June 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated the effectiveness and tolerability of the supplement in
patients who cannot tolerate statins. In this small, randomized control trial, the participants who consumed red yeast rice twice daily for 24 weeks did have reduced LDL levels, but they
were also part of an ongoing therapeutic lifestyle intervention. These findings led
the researchers to say that red yeast rice supplementation, along with lifestyle changes, may be a treatment option for people who cannot tolerate statin therapy.
But don’t rush out to buy red yeast rice supplements, warns IDEA contributing editor Jennie McCary, MS, RD, LD. “While there is evidence that red yeast rice may have a cholesterol-lowering effect and may hold promise as an alternative to statins,
it must be taken in conjunction with lifestyle changes,” she says. “Because it is a dietary supplement, it is poorly regulated, so quality and quantity are not controlled. Also, red yeast rice is not for everyone, so consumers should first consult their health provider.”
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