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What Your Doctor is Reading: Lifestyle Changes, Red Yeast Rice and Fish Oil Help Cut Bad Cholesterol

By July 14, 2008


What your doctor is reading is a regular feature that reviews current information about medications from the medical journals that are most often read by physicians.

The dietary supplements red rice yeast and fish oil combined with healthy lifestyle changes - such as exercise and diet - can help reduce LDL cholesterol (also known as bad cholesterol) as effectively as the statin drug Zocor (simvastatin), according to new research.

This alternative method for lowering LDL cholesterol may be helpful for people with high cholesterol who are unwilling or unable to take statins because of muscle cramps, other side effects or the cost of brand name statins. Since no prescription is required, this therapy is readily available.

Red yeast rice is a Chinese herbal medication first described in the Tang Dynasty in 800 AD. It is used as a garnish for food and a traditional medication. Red yeast rice contains naturally occurring statin (lovastatin) and 9 different substances called monacolins that could inhibit the body's ability to make cholesterol.

However, there may be some problems with the use of red rice yeast supplements. ConsumerLab.com, a company that evaluates health, wellness, and nutrition products, found that levels of cholesterol-lowering statin compounds varied by more than 100-fold among 10 red yeast rice products - some containing a large amount but others had hardly any.

ConsumerLab.com also found that four of the 10 products were contaminated with citrinin, a substance that may cause kidney damage.

If this information is confusing, speak with your healthcare provider before using a red yeast rice product. Dietary supplements, such as red yeast rice, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and problems with quality and safety can be a problem.

The following articles from About.com provide important information about the use of red yeast rice:

July 15, 2008 at 8:08 am
(1) Rob at Kardea Nutrition says:

Natural cholesterol management through diet and supplementation is certainly proven, but the tools go well beyond this discussion of red yeast rice and fish oil. Top on the list are plant sterols (2g-2.5g/day), soluble fiber from oats, barley, psylium, beans and high-pectin fruits, and monounsaturated fats instead of trans and saturated fats. Research indicates that a diet that emphasizes these tools can lower LDL (bad) cholesterol by 30% (see http://www.kardeanutrition.com/resources for links to clinical studies).

Fish oils high in Omega-3s do not specifically lower LDL cholesterol, but they can be very effective at 2-4g/day in lowering triglycerides. Further, these fish oils appear to minimize the potential hazard of LDLs (that’s right: certain types of LDL cholesterol–smaller, denser LDLs–are thought to be more harmful than the larger LDLs).

And what about red yeast rice supplements? Effectiveness certainly has been proven — in ways similar to statins. Why? Because the active ingredient is a naturally-occuring statin–it is the same chemical compound in Mevacor — the statin drug that Merck has solicted the FDA to sell as an over-the counter drug with no prescription. The FDA has denied Merck’s request on repeated occassions.

So, when considering red yeast rice and a prescription statin medication, you need to recognize that you are not choosing whether to take a statin. In either case, you will be. Rather, it is a choice between a synthetic or a natural statin.

But give some thought to a comprehensive approach to natural cholesterol management. http://www.kardeanutrition.com.

July 25, 2008 at 8:50 pm
(2) Bob says:

Rob leaves a nice comment pointing readers right to his website to increase business. I would be somewhat skeptical about these very biased words.

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