Dyslipidaemia is a condition characterised by abnormally high levels of cholesterol in the blood that puts you at a higher risk of heart problems.1 Studies have shown that traditionally, the use of red yeast rice is moderately effective in lowering cholesterol and lowers the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events.2
This article will help you to understand the effectiveness and safety concerns regarding the use of red yeast rice in treating dyslipidaemia.
What happens in dyslipidaemia?
If you have dyslipidaemia, it means you have high levels of triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins, also known as bad cholesterol, and low levels of high-density lipoproteins, also known as good cholesterol. High cholesterol levels can lead to the build-up of fatty deposits in the walls of the arteries of the heart. This narrows and hardens them, putting you at risk of several heart problems including a heart attack.1
What is red yeast rice?
White rice, when fermented with the yeast Monascus purpureus, produces red yeast rice. It is a traditional Chinese herbal dietary supplement, which is used as a flavour enhancer, food preservative or a colouring agent for foods. Clinical studies have shown the effectiveness of this red yeast rice in lowering cholesterol in people with dyslipidaemia.3
Why is red yeast rice preferred for the treatment of dyslipidaemia?
The conventional treatment of dyslipidaemia includes medicines known as statins. These are very effective in lowering the lipids in the blood and thereby reducing the morbidity and mortality risks associated with dyslipidaemia.4 However, many people suffer from muscular pain while on statins. This is a common side effect, which often leads to nonadherence or discontinuation of treatment, creating the need for over-the-counter products that do not produce myalgia and yet, are equally effective. Red yeast rice is seen to be effective in the treatment of circulatory disorders and dyslipidaemia.2 It reduces the levels of cholesterol in the blood. Thus, some people may prefer red yeast rice over the conventional treatment of dyslipidaemia.5
How does red yeast rice work in people with dyslipidaemia?
Several clinical trials have documented that red yeast rice can lower total cholesterol, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. It is believed that red yeast rice causes inhibition of an enzyme essential in the synthesis of cholesterol. A naturally occurring chemical in the red yeast rice is similar to statin medicines, which allows it to lower cholesterol levels in the blood.5
Are there any limitations to the use of red yeast rice?
Red yeast rice has been used in China for many years as a dietary supplement.3 It is also being used as a non-prescription remedy for cholesterol.2 According to some clinical studies, red yeast rice is safe and effective in people with moderate hypercholesterolemia as a cholesterol-lowering food supplement and can be used for dyslipidaemia.3,4
However, red yeast rice products in the market lack quality control and are not standardized, that is, the chemical content in the rice varies markedly in different products.2,5 Some studies have also shown that red yeast rice may cause muscle pain, loose motions and dizziness.2 Therefore, more studies on the safety of red yeast rice have been recommended before using it as an alternative to statin medicines.4
You should consult your doctor for a trial of red yeast rice along with appropriate monitoring and follow-up if you prefer a natural approach to treatment or if you have had side effects from statins.5
Make the right choice; keep the bad cholesterol away!
- Hormone Health Network. Dyslipidemia [Internet]. [updated 2018 May; cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/dyslipidemia.
- Shamim S, Al Badarin FJ, DiNicolantonio JJ, Lavie CJ, O’Keefe JH. Red yeast rice for dyslipidemia. Mo Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;110(4):349-54.
- Burke FM. Red yeast rice for the treatment of dyslipidemia. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2015 Apr;17(4):495. doi: 10.1007/s11883-015-0495-8.
- Li Y, Jiang L, Jia Z, Xin W, Yang S, et al. A meta-analysis of red yeast rice: an effective and relatively safe alternative approach for dyslipidemia. PLoS One. 2014 Jun 4;9(6):e98611. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0098611.
- National Lipid Association. Red yeast rice as an alternative therapy for dyslipidaemia [Internet]. [cited 2019 Dec 2]. Available from: https://www.lipid.org/node/1907.