What is red yeast rice?
Red yeast rice is also known as Hong Qu, a traditional Chinese herb that has been used as flavoring, colorant, and preservative in cooking and medicines. The first use of red yeast rice is more than thousand years ago, which has been documented in Chinese Tang Dynasty (around 800 A.D.). Red yeast rice is the fermented product of rice inoculated with red yeast, Monascus purpureus. 1
How does it help to lower down cholesterol level?
During fermentation process, a substance known as monacolins are produced. Monacolins have been shown to inhibit cholesterol production in the liver. Red yeast rice helps to lower cholesterol level by inhibiting the activity of the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl co-enzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase, which is an essential step in cholesterol production. Inhibition of this enzyme will block the liver from produce cholesterol in the body, thereby reduce the cholesterol in the blood. A meta-analysis involving 804 subjects have shown that red yeast rice significantly lower serum cholesterol level than placebo2. Another meta-analysis assesses the effectiveness red yeast rice also shown the same results, the level of total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL-cholesterol have been reduced significantly 3.
What are the different between red yeast rice and station medications?
It provides the similar effect like statin medications, but it is more natural way to reduce cholesterol level compared to conventional station medications. The effect of red yeast rice is more mild than conventional statin drugs, with lesser side effects4.
How should I take care of my diet to help reducing my cholesterol level?
It is important to limit foods that rich in cholesterol. As 80% of the cholesterol are produced in the liver while 20% are ingested from the diet. Therefore, foods rich in cholesterol such as egg yolk, internal organs, seafoods such as crab and prawn should be cut down. Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal products, as plants do not contain cholesterol. At the same time, be aware of processed foods and fast foods which may have hidden cholesterol contents. For instance, cake made from cream, milk and butter, and cheese may contain cholesterol, so as in processed meat such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages.
In conclusion, red yeast rice can serve as a natural way for people with borderline or high cholesterol level to reduce their cholesterol level, and for those who are unwilling or unable to take cholesterol medications.
- Musselman, M.E., Pettit, R.S., and Derenski, K.L., 2012. A Review and Update of Red Yeast Rice. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 17(1):33-39
- Li, Y., et.al., 2014. A meta-analysis of red yeast rice: an effective and relatively safe alternative approach for dyslipidemia. PLoS One, 9(6):e98611
- Liu, J., Zhang, J., Shi, Y., Grimsgaard, S., Alraek, T., and Fønnebø, V., 2006. Chinese red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus) for primary hyperlipidemia: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Chin Med., 1:4
- Becker, D. J., et.al., 2008. Simvastatin vs therapeutic lifestyle changes and supplements: randomized primary prevention trial. Mayo Clin Proc., 83(7):758-764
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