The people of China have been using red yeast rice for centuries both as a food and for medicinal purposes. Also known as Went Yeast, it is prepared by fermenting red rice with Monascus purpureus, which is a type of yeast. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have long been using red yeast rice for improve blood circulation and digestion, and reducing cholesterol. However, modern scientific research has discovered the presence of chemicals in red yeast rice extract that are similar to those that prescription statin medications tend to contain. Hence, this makes it obvious that the use of red yeast rice extract can help reduce LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease.
Red yeast rice extract Benefits
According to the study “Release of acetylcholine by Hon-Chi,” a specific dose of Hon-Chi led to a decline in plasma glucose. Hon-Chi is actually fermented with two types of yeasts, namely Monascus pilous and M. purpureus. Similarly, the study “lasma glucose-lowering action of Hon-Chi” revealed that this extract can even boost C-peptide or plasma insulin, delay insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity.
The article about “Red yeast rice” on MayoClinic.org points out that the chemical structure of monacolin K, one of the monacolins found in this extract, is the same as that of prescription statin drugs like lovastatin (Mevacor) that have been approved by the FDA. This has led researchers to believe that the use of this extract may result in a natural decline in cholesterol levels.
The “bad” (LDL) cholesterol lowering ability of this extract has also been noted in several studies, such as “Cholesterol-lowering effects” and “Efficacy of Monascus purpureus.” The body contains an enzyme that helps with the production of cholesterol and studies like these suggest that this extract inhibits the action of that enzyme. While this extract apparently does not increase HDL “good” cholesterol, it has been noted that it lowers levels of LDL cholesterol, and also reduces total cholesterol and triglycerides.
Red yeast rice extract Dosage
Red yeast rice extract is primarily available in the form of capsules with the maximum dose of up to 600 milligrams. Manufacturers of these supplements recommend that 2 capsules should be taken orally twice a day while ensuring that the total dose does not exceed 2,400 milligrams.
Red yeast rice extract Side Effects
As mentioned on Drugs.com, patients suffering from hypersensitivity should avoid using any red yeast rice extract product. According to reports, some people who take red yeast rice extract capsules orally may experience anaphylactic reactions. The use of red yeast rice extract supplements may also make the user more prone to developing statin-induced myopathy, since the tissue of coenzyme Q 10 gets depleted. Other minor side effects that might be expereinced include bloating or stomach ache, dizziness, gas, headache, and/or heartburn.
As mentioned, red yeast rice is prepared by fermenting red rice with yeasts, including M. purpureus and M. rubber. However, the study “Mycotoxins” indicates that these two types of yeast contain mycotoxin citrinin, which is known for being nephrotoxic. People suffering from liver disease are advised to avoid taking these supplements.
- Neurosci Lett: Release of acetylcholine by Hon-Chi to raise insulin secretion in Wistar rats.
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research: Red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus).
- Am J Clin Nutr: Cholesterol-lowering effects of a proprietary Chinese red-yeast-rice dietary supplement.
- Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil: Efficacy of Monascus purpureus Went rice on lowering lipid ratios in hypercholesterolemic patients.
- Drugs.com: Red Yeast Rice.
- Clin Microbiol Rev: Mycotoxins.