Red yeast rice is a supplement created from monascus purpureus yeast that is grown on rice. Red Yeast rice inhibits cholesterol synthesis through a well known mechanism, inhibiting the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase.This is also a mechanism of statin drugs. In fact, Monacolin K is a statin monacolin found in red yeast rice, that is chemically identical to lovastatin. Lovastatin is an ingredient in the common statin drugs known as Mevacor and Altoprev. It has been shown in various studies that red yeast rice supplementation can effectively lower LDL, total cholesterol and triglycerides in about three months. There is also some evidence to support improved blood glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity and modest blood pressure reduction in patients with metabolic syndrome. There is also some newer research documenting possible anti-cancer properties of this supplement, through it's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Since human studies regarding this are very limited, additional research is needed to fully evaluate this potential. It's important to know that since the mechanism of red yeast rice is the same as a statin, it can cause identical nutrient depletions and similar side effects to a statin drug. Side effects may include headache, heartburn, gas, muscle weakness/pain, increased liver enzymes and sleep disturbances. Taking CoQ10 would be a good idea with this supplement, since CoQ10 is made in the same pathway red yeast rice inhibits, leading to depletions. Although red yeast rice does effect the HMG-CoA-reductase enzyme the same way as a statin, it contains an array of monacolins (while a statin only has one) that may also play a part in reducing cholesterol. Getting a high quality supplement is a must with red yeast rice, so as to avoid a mycotoxin called citrinin which has the potential to cause renal and liver damage. This is why I always recommend getting supplements from a licensed practitioner or sourcing websites such as consumerlab.com to make sure you are purchasing a high quality supplement.
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