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Red Yeast Rice: Chinese Secret for Lower Cholesterol

Did you know that one of the red yeast rice benefits will help lower cholesterol? Everyone should know their total cholesterol levels; if yours is high, you may want to consider eating red yeast rice to lower your cholesterol. It's best for your cholesterol to be below 200 milligrams per deciliter, but a third of all Americans have cholesterol in the borderline 200 to 240 range and about one fifth are in the dangerously very high over 240 range.

If your cholesterol levels are high, your doctor can prescribe statin drugs, like Lipitor and Zocor, which inhibit cholesterol production, but these drugs pose risks to the liver and muscles.

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Dr. David Heber, Director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, may have found a safer, natural alternative in Chinese Red Yeast Rice. Below are Dr. Heber's answers to some frequently asked questions about this natural treatment:

Q: How can I reduce cholesterol naturally?

Q: How can I reduce cholesterol naturally?

A: here are a number of things that are recommended. One is to reduce total caloric intake. If you are obese, achieving a healthy body weight is also extremely important.

Then there's increasing fiber intake to 25 to 30 grams per day. If you smoke, quit. Beyond that, there are a number of natural supplements that have been used for people with moderately high cholesterol. Among these, one of the most effective is Chinese Red Yeast Rice.

Q: What is Chinese Red Yeast Rice?

Q: What is Chinese Red Yeast Rice?

A: It is literally a red yeast that grows on a particular type of rice. It's been eaten in China as a spice for over 500 years. The yeast itself contains a family of substances called monocolins, which lower cholesterol by inhibiting cholesterol production in the liver in the same manner as prescription statin drugs.

Q: How do you take it?

Q: How do you take it?

A: In China, Red Yeast Rice is sprinkled on top of tofu or meat dishes, giving a tangy taste. It's relatively simple to incorporate Chinese Red Yeast Rice into the diet simply by making it an ingredient in your cooking or by taking it in capsule form. The typical dose is 2.4 grams a day as four capsules.

Q: Has Red Yeast Rice been studied?

Q: Has Red Yeast Rice been studied?

A: Yes. Seventeen studies in China found that this particular strain would actually lower total cholesterol. In addition we've recently performed a double-blind placebo controlled study here at UCLA with the results published in the February 1999 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

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Q: How well does it work?

Q: How well does it work?

A: We found in our trial that those who took the placebo had no reduction in cholesterol, while those receiving the Chinese red yeast had a 15 percent drop in cholesterol levels. That's very significant. Often patients who have a cholesterol of 220 to 230 will have their cholesterol to drop below 200, after taking Red Yeast Rice.

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In fact, 2.4 grams of the Red Yeast Rice resulted in similar decreases in cholesterol as 20 milligrams of Mevacor. The difference is that Mevacor is a purified chemical and the Red Yeast Rice is a mixture of naturally occurring compounds.

Q: Are there side effects?

Q: Are there side effects?

A: Red Yeast Rice is fairly safe. It carries with it the usual warnings that are associated with cholesterol-lowering drugs: pregnant women shouldn't take it, probably children shouldn't take it, people with liver disease should not take this. But in animal studies, where dosages were given at a thousand times a human dose, there's no abnormal liver function seen at all, so we feel this is fairly safe.

Q: Can I use Red Yeast Rice instead of my prescription drugs?

Q: Can I use Red Yeast Rice instead of my prescription drugs?

A: If someone is diagnosed with heart disease, they should take the very best drugs that we have in Western medicine. And certainly if you've had a heart attack, you should take a cholesterol-lowering prescription drug. However, for those people who are relatively healthy (and there is a large number with moderately elevated cholesterol who are not currently taking conventional medicine), with their doctor's approval, these patients could safely take this natural drug and lower the risk of heart disease by lowering their levels of cholesterol.

Q: Where can I get Red Yeast Rice, and how much does it cost? And how is it taken?

Q: Where can I get Red Yeast Rice, and how much does it cost? And how is it taken?

A: You can get Red Yeast Rice at your local health food store. A two-week supply of capsules costs about $20.00.

The information expressed on this page is the opinions and perspectives of the individual featured here and is not necessarily endorsed or recommended by Discovery Health Online.

 

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