Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol
What is Red Yeast Rice?
Red yeast rice is a special type of Chinese rice. It is made by fermenting regular whole-grain rice with a type of mold called Monascus purpureus. Red yeast rice has been around since the Tang Dynasty ca. 800 CE, and was described in a medical encyclopedia from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE) as useful for improving circulation and alleviating indigestion and diarrhea. People in China, Japan, and Asian-American communities in the United States eat red yeast rice regularly. It is also ground up and used as a preservative, spice, ingredient in rice wine, and a natural coloring agent.
Is Red Yeast Rice Effective for Lowering Cholesterol?
Now, modern scientific studies are backing up the traditional wisdom. Red yeast rice has been proven in Chinese and American studies to be effective at the reduction of cholesterol and other blood lipids. Red yeast rice lowers total cholesterol levels by 10-30 percent, LDL or bad cholesterol levels by an average of 10-20 percent, and triglyceride levels by an average of 15-25 percent. It also increases good or HDL cholesterol levels by an average of 7-15 percent. The Mayo Clinic has given red yeast rice a grade of A, meaning that there is strong scientific evidence for its use. Researchers have determined that red yeast lowers cholesterol by inhibiting a particular liver enzyme from producing cholesterol. Red yeast rice functions in the same way that conventional statin drugs do to lower cholesterol. However, red yeast rice has none of the negative side effects of statin drugs, and it is available at approximately 20% of the cost of modern pharmaceuticals.
Is Red Yeast Rice Safe for Everyone?
People in Asia have been eating red yeast rice for over a thousand years without evidence of harm. However, people with liver disease or bleeding disorders, people who drink alcohol, and women who are pregnant or nursing should consult their doctor before taking red yeast rice. Red yeast rice is an ideal option for naturally reducing cholesterol in people who have mildly to moderately elevated cholesterol levels.
How Can I Get Red Yeast in My Diet?
In Asia, the average consumption of red yeast rice is 14-55 grams per day per person. There are two natural preparations of red yeast rice: Zhitai and Xuezhikang. Zhitai is whole grain rice that has been fermented with several strains of M. purpureus. Xuezhikang is produced by mixing the rice and M. purpureus with alcohol and processing this mixture to remove most of the gluten from the rice. Red yeast rice is also available in a pill form, but due to the concentration of ingredients, red yeast rice pills may have a greater risk of side-effects than natural preparations. Red yeast rice should be added to a balanced diet that is already low in cholesterol and fat, and should be accompanied by moderate exercise to naturally achieve greater health and lower cholesterol levels.
Photo Credit: kattebelletje