Cholesterol/LipidsRed Yeast Rice

Review: Red yeast rice to treat high cholesterol levels

red_yeastRed yeast rice typically contains monacolins, including monacolin K — the naturally occurring statin known as lovastatin (Mevacor).

First, the details.

  • Dr. Julie Sease from the Presbyterian College School of Pharmacy, in Clinton, South Carolina reviewed the evidence.

And, the results.

  • In several small studies monacolin K (3 to 15 mg/day) lowered total and LDL (bad) cholesterol.

The bottom line?

Dr. Sease concludes, “Patients taking red yeast rice should be monitored for changes in liver function and counseled about the possibility of myalgias (muscle pain) and drug interactions” typical of statins.

She also notes that xuezhikang — an extract of red yeast rice marketed in China — has not been studied in the US. Therefore, she continues, it’s unclear if any of the results with monacolin apply to xuezhikang.

True enough.

But a review by researchers in Norway and China reported that xuezhikang lowered total cholesterol levels 19% to 44%. Furthermore, in 2 studies conducted in China (here and here), patients taking xuezhikang who had a previous heart attack had a “significantly decreased the risk of coronary heart disease death.”

More on monacolins is here.

12/28/09 21:43 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.