Red Yeast Rice

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Information about Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is bright reddish-purple fermented rice which is used as a dietary supplement, predominantly as a cholesterol lowering agent.  The reddish-purple color derives from the mold Monascus purpureus. 

Liver safety of Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice use has been associated with very rare instances of acute, clinically apparent liver injury.  

Mechanism of action of Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese medicine used as an aid to digestion and revitalizing agent.  More recently, red yeast rice was shown to have a cholesterol lowering effect and was marketed as a natural means of treating hyperlipidemia.  However, chemical characterization of the components of red yeast rice (monascus purpureus) demonstrated the presence of several monacolins, one of which (monacolin K) is chemically identical to lovastatin, a commercially available HMG-coenzyme A inhibitor widely used in the management of hyperlipidemia.  While concentrations of lovastatin in commercial preparations of red yeast rice extract are variable, some have pharmacologically active concentrations of lovastatin.  Controlled trials have shown that red yeast rice extract can lower total serum and LDL cholesterol.  However, these same preparations have also been linked to rare cases of myopathy and liver injury similar to what occurs with lovastatin.  Red yeast rice extracts are available over-the-counter in multiple formulations and with variable concentrations of monacolins. 

FDA ruling on Red Yeast Rice

The FDA has ruled that red yeast rice extracts that have more than trace amounts of monacolin K (lovastatin) cannot be sold as a dietary supplement, but some products with detectable levels of lovastatin are commercially available.  The other components of red yeast rice may have independent effects of lipid levels.

Herbal and dietary supplements

Chinese and Other Asian Herbal Medicines

Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplements

See also Nutritional supplements

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