Red Yeast Rice (RYR) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 1,000 years to improve circulation and digestion. But, in the Western world, RYR has a well-earned reputation for its ability to lower cholesterol levels. Most type 2 diabetics have problems with their cholesterol levels.

RYR is also known as Went rice, red fermented rice, red koji rice, akakoji, red koji rice, or anka. ‘Koji’ is Japanese for ‘grain or bean covered with a moldy growth’, which is an apt description.

Red yeast rice is created by fermenting a type of yeast called monascus purpureus with rice. Once the rice is combined with the fermenting yeast, it turns a bright reddish-purple color.

In Asia, people eat between 15 and 55 grams of natural RYR every day. In Chinese communities around the world, powdered RYR is used to color foods such as tofu, meat, fish, cheese, vinegar, and cakes. It is also added to alcoholic beverages such as Japanese saki and Korean rice wines to impart a reddish tint.

Red Yeast Rice Extract (RYRE) is used to make red yeast rice supplements.

The Statin Problem

statins are a class of drugs often prescribed by doctors to help lower blood cholesterol levels to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Studies show that in certain people, statins reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and even death from heart disease by 25% to 35%.

There are two types of cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) which builds up plaque in the arteries, significantly increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes, and HDL (‘good’) cholesterol which prevents plaque build-up by carrying cholesterol bad cholesterol (LDL) from the blood to the liver, where it is removed from the body.

Some people find it difficult to take statins, including this writer, due to side effects. Instead, I take 1000mg of cod liver oil and 10mg of Ezetimibe Teva every day. Ezetimibe Teva is another medicine to lower high cholesterol levels.

Side effects of statins include muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy, heart failure, dizziness, cognitive decline, cancer, pancreatic rot, and depression. In my experience, statins slowed down my thinking, which I found intolerable. The side effects of RYR are less unpleasant and much more acceptable.

RYR contains natural chemicals called monacolins. Monacolins block the production of cholesterol. One of these monacolins, monacolin K, which is sometimes found in RYR supplements, is an active statin-like compound with the same chemical composition as prescription statins such as lovastatin and mevinolin. DDespite this, the side effects of RYR are different from and more tolerable than the side effects of statins.

How Red Yeast Rice Lowers Cholesterol

The monacolin in red yeast rice is less than the equivalent compounds found in medical statins, so it is highly unlikely that monacolin is the only reason RYR can lower cholesterol.

RYR contains other plant compounds such as phytosterols and isoflavones, as well as unsaturated fatty acids. Therefore, it is likely that these substances play a role in red yeast rice’s ability to lower cholesterol.

The truth is that red yeast (monacus purpureus) used to cause RYR to stop the action of an enzyme that aids in the formation of cholesterol in the human body, thus lowering cholesterol in general.

The benefits of red yeast rice go far beyond lowering high cholesterol levels:

  • lower high cholesterol
  • Reduce muscle fatigue
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • reduce obesity
  • Reduce oxidative stress

Cholesterol reduction and red yeast rice

Red yeast rice supplements are most often taken to reduce hyperlipidemiathat is, high cholesterol.

There are many studies that prove the effects that RYR extracts have on cholesterol. The average benefits found by comparing the results of dozens of studies are (inconsistencies aside) as follows:

  • 1.2 grams per day reduces LDL cholesterol levels by 26% in 8 weeks
  • 2.4ga daily reduces LDL levels by 22% and total cholesterol by 16% in 12 weeks

A study published in
American Journal of Cardiology in 2010 examined how RYR supplementation affected 25 patients who could not tolerate statins. The results…on average, total cholesterol was reduced by 13% and LDL was reduced by 19%. And the RYR was well tolerated.

Another 2007 study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation described the effects of RYR in 79 patients aged 23 to 65 years with high cholesterol. Some subjects took RYR 600 mg twice daily for 8 weeks, others were given a placebo. Subjects who received the RYR had significantly lower LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol at the end of two months compared to those who received the placebo.

Muscle fatigue and red yeast rice

Many statin users complain of muscle fatigue, muscle pain, and a real feeling of muscle weakness, as this writer can attest. Estimates suggest that 10% to 15% of statin users experience muscle fatigue.

A study published in May 2018 by the US National Institutes of Health examined the effects of taking simvastatin or RYR in 60 patients with high cholesterol levels and low to moderate risk of cardiovascular disease. Muscle fatigue score, physical activity, serum lipid profile, and safety profile were then evaluated.

After 4 weeks of taking the statin (33 patients) or the RYR (27 patients), the fatigue score increased significantly in the simvastatin-treated patients, while no significant changes were observed in the patients who received red yeast rice. Furthermore, the level of physical activity was significantly decreased in patients in the simvastatin group compared to those in the red yeast rice group. Similar lipid-lowering effects were observed in both groups. The safety profile was not affected after treatments.

The study concluded that RYR worked as well as the statin but with less fatigue.

Improve insulin sensitivity with red yeast rice

RYR can help maintain normal blood glucose levels.

A study published in 2012 in the World Journal of Cardiology showed that RYR extract can contribute to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels when given in a dietary supplement that also contains berberine and policosanol to people with metabolic syndrome compared to those given only a placebo.

metabolic syndrome is a health condition that involves having a combination of any of the following three…abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

After 18 weeks, subjects taking the supplement had a significant decrease in insulin resistance, as well as LDL cholesterol and overall, compared to subjects who had been taking a placebo.

Using red yeast rice to reduce obesity

Obesity and high cholesterol are two common health problems that are often found together. Animal research has found RYR to be effective when used to treat both conditions.

In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods in 2015, researchers separated animal subjects into 5 groups… normal diet, high-fat diet without RYR, and three high-fat groups that received different amounts of RYR. The researchers found that the added RYR prevented weight gain and also improved the subjects’ atherogenic index.

Tea plasma atherogenic index provides information on the proportions of cholesterol in the body. It is used as a marker to predict the risk of atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.

The researchers concluded that RYR has therapeutic potential in the treatment of obesity and hyperlipidemiathat is, too many fats (lipids) in the blood, such as cholesterol.

Oxidative stress reduction with red yeast rice

oxidative stress it is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in your body. Free radicals are oxygen-containing molecules that can easily react with other molecules. These reactions are called oxidation. They can be beneficial or harmful. Oxidative stress plays an important role in disease formation.

In July 2017, the US Library of Medicine (NIH) published the results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial involving 50 patients with metabolic syndrome and the effects of a supplement containing RYR and an extract of olives. The trial found that supplementation with RYR and olive extract greatly decreased two significant biomarkers of oxidative damage or stress.

The reduction of these two markers has been associated with a lower risk of heart disease in people who have metabolic syndrome… which includes most diabetics.

like usand red yeast rice

Finding RYR supplements online or at your health food store is easy. But deciding on the best daily dose is not so easy.

Most studies use a standard of 2,400 mg of extract per day, divided into two or four daily doses of 1,200 mg twice daily or 600 mg four times daily. But I have never seen any clinically verified reason why this ‘standard’ is warranted. But, as no alternative suggestion is available, these may be the recommended doses.

Any RYR supplement must be taken with food. It is also best taken with at least 90-120 mg of CoQ10 to prevent you from becoming CoQ10 deficient.

Different manufacturers of RYR supplements use different strains of yeast and different fermentation processes. This means that the amount of monacolins will vary between brands, ranging from zero to 0.6% of the final supplement. The trick… read the labels carefully.

Possible Side Effects of Red Yeast Rice

Side effects of taking red yeast rice are usually mild (if any) and may include… headache, upset stomach, heartburn (acid reflux), gas, or dizziness.

Sore muscles and muscle weakness are also possible, especially if the RYR supplement contains high levels of monacolin. If you experience such problems, stop taking the supplement and contact your doctor.

The received medical opinion is that you should not take RYR if you are already taking… statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications… antifungal medications… medications that suppress your immune system… the antibiotics erythromycin and clarithromycin… protease inhibitors used to treat HIV.

You should also avoid red yeast rice if you have…kidney disease…liver disease…thyroid problems…musculoskeletal disorders…a high risk of cancer…a serious infection…had a organ transplant… more than two alcoholic beverages a day… an allergy or sensitivity to rice, red yeast, or any yeast.

Anyone under the age of 20 should not take RYR supplements. Neither should a woman, regardless of her age, if she is breastfeeding, pregnant, or trying to get pregnant.

It might be wise to consult your doctor before starting to take RYR supplements. If he is already prescribing statins, you should ask him about switching to RYR supplements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *