Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Foods That Claim to Lower Cholesterol


Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is the fermented product of red yeast grown on rice. It has been used for centuries in China as a food colorant, flavor enhancer, and dietary staple in several Asian countries. Some strains of Chinese red yeast rice produce compounds called monacolins, which inhibit the production of cholesterol in the body. One of these compounds, monacolin K (also known as mevinolin or lovastatin), is thought to be particularly effective in lowering cholesterol levels. Lovastatin is the generic name for the cholesterol-lowering prescription drug Mevacor.

Red yeast rice had been sold as a natural cholesterol-lowering supplement, and it was the active ingredient in the proprietary dietary supplement Cholestin. In a 1999 study, evidence showed Cholestin lowered LDL cholesterol by 22 percent, suggesting a cheaper way to lower cholesterol than taking prescription drugs. But in 2001, a U.S. federal district court, with the support of the Food and Drug Administration, banned Cholestin because it contained the same active ingredient, monacolin K, or lovastatin, as the drug Mevacor. As a result, the manufacturers of Cholestin replaced the red yeast rice with policosanol. In June 2005, Cholestin was again reformulated with a proprietary blend of natural plant and marine oils called Lipidol.

Red yeast rice supplements are still available today, although you may have to search the Internet to find them, and the products may not be standardized. Many red yeast rice products do not contain monacolin K, although a few still do. Doctors do not recommend red yeast rice specifically because of the lack of standardization.

One of the most popular food products used to lower cholesterol is soy. But does it really work? See the next page to explore the healthful aspects of soy.

To find out more information about reducing cholesterol, see:

  • Foods That Lower Cholesterol: Many foods and supplements are proven to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Learn which foods can help lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
  • Can Vitamins Lower Cholesterol?: Can a vitamin regimen really help lower cholesterol? Learn just how effective vitamin therapy can be.
  • How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is vital to human life. Learn what cholesterol is, why we need it, and how too much can be deadly.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.