Researchers from the Universities of Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania compared a statin to an alternative treatment option that included lifestyle changes, red yeast rice, and fish oil.

A reader has reviewed the entire study and expands on the summary below.

First, the details.

  • 74 patients with high cholesterol blood levels and met Adult Treatment Panel III criteria for primary prevention using statin therapy were studied for 12 weeks.
  • All participants were randomly assigned to an alternative treatment group (AG) or to simvastatin (Zocor) 40 mg/day).
  • AG treatment included therapeutic lifestyle changes, ingestion of red yeast rice, and fish oil supplements.
  • The simvastatin group received medication and traditional counseling.

And, the results.

  • There was a statistically significant reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the AG group (–42%) and the simvastatin group (–40%).
  • No significant differences in LDL cholesterol were found between groups.
  • The AG group also had significant reductions in triglycerides (–29% vs –9.3%) and weight (–5.5% vs –0.4%) compared with the simvastatin group.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Lifestyle changes combined with ingestion of red yeast rice and fish oil reduced LDL [bad] cholesterol in proportions similar to standard therapy with simvastatin… This multifactorial, alternative approach to lipid lowering has promise for a subset of patients unwilling or unable to take statins.”

It’s an important study, not just because of the results, but because it was published in a respected allopathic medical journal (Mayo Clinic Proceedings) by researchers at respected institutions.

The next issue will be whether it’s cost effective therapy. Also, the importance of reliable manufacturing standards that can ensure consistent content of red yeast rice and fish oil products must be addressed.

7/14/08 20:27 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.