ASK THE PHARMACIST
Red yeast rice fights cholesterol like a statin
By Suzy Cohen, R. Ph.
Tribune Media Services
Q I came across red yeast rice in the health food store where they were advertising it as a means of lowering cholesterol. What is the stuff and will it work like they say?
A Red Yeast rice is not a fancy vegetarian dish, and don’t let the word “yeast” fool you into thinking it’s some new type of bread, beer or infection. Red yeast rice, native to
The natural substances in red yeast rice are chemically related to statins, those popular pharmaceuticals you hear about every day such as Lipitor, Mevacor and Zocor. Like these drugs, red yeast rice works by reducing your body’s production of it, rather than by attempting to squelch high levels of cholesterol after you’ve acquired them.
It’s sort of like fighting weeds in your garden. It’s a lot easier to prevent the growth of weeds than it is to pull them, one by one, after they’ve taken root.
In recent years, a number of studies have found that red yeast rice consumption can reduce cholesterol by as much as 30 percent and triglycerides by 19 percent. One such study, which was conducted at UCLA and its
findings published in the February 1999 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that test subjects who received red yeast rice, after several months of treatment, had a significant reduction of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Researchers observed mild side effects such as heartburn, gas and dizziness, but no changes in liver function.
This is a big deal because synthetic drugs sometimes can damage the liver. A similar study in
Don’t, however, substitute or combine red yeast rice with other cholesterol busters unless supervised by your physician. And be aware that red yeast rice may cause your stool to redden. Fortunately, the effect is temporary and harmless.
If you are unwilling or unable to tolerate traditional medicine, it’s just another option.
This information is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose your condition. Always consult your physician. Suzy Cohen is a registered pharmacist. For more information, visit www.dearpharmacist.com You can write to her c/o Tribune Media Services, 435
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