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What is Red Yeast Rice Extract?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 July 2014
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Red yeast rice extract is a compound extracted from red yeast rice, an Asian specialty which has been produced and consumed for centuries. Studies on red yeast rice and red yeast rice extract have shown that it can reduce cholesterol levels. In fact, some of the active compounds in red yeast rice appear in prescription drugs designed to lower cholesterol. This extract is sold as a dietary supplement, although some regulatory organizations have suggested that it should be treated like a drug.

In Asia, red yeast rice is eaten with a variety of dishes, and it is a fundamental part of some traditional recipes. It is made by cultivating a yeast known as Monascus purpureus on polished rice, allowing the rice to become covered in a thick layer of reddish yeast. Once the yeast has been cultivated, the rice can be packaged for sale and eventual cooking, or treated to obtain red yeast rice extract, which may be sold in liquid or capsule form.

Chemical analysis of red yeast rice has indicated that it contains compounds which inhibit the formation of cholesterol, thereby lowering cholesterol levels. In scientific studies, red yeast rice extract appears to have no impact on levels of good cholesterol, instead working to lower triglycerides and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Some researchers have suggested that the consumption of red yeast rice may explain traditionally low levels of cholesterol in Asian populations, although this may also be related to dietary trends and exercise habits.

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Red yeast rice extract can act as a statin or cholesterol lowering drug, and some practitioners of alternative medicine recommend it to patients with high cholesterol levels. However, there are some caveats involved. Statins need to be used under medical supervision, with periodic blood tests to monitor cholesterol levels, and many medical professionals feel that red yeast rice extract should be treated in the same way, since it is chemically similar to pharmaceutical drugs.

Using red yeast rice extract is also less reliable than using a statin, because it is not formulated and compounded in a laboratory, which means that the levels of the cholesterol-lowering compounds can vary from dose to dose. Thus, it is difficult to arrive at dosage recommendations. Patients can also experience bloating, nausea, and all of the symptoms with statin use, and red yeast rice extract has also been linked to liver damage, so it should not be used by people with chronic liver conditions.

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candyquilt
Post 4

I agree that red yeast rice is beneficial for cholesterol. The problem with red yeast rice supplements however, is that they are not regulated. So no one knows how much of the active ingredient monacolin a supplement has. So while one supplement might be very effective, another might be completely useless.

The good part about statin medications is that you know exactly how much of the medicine you are getting and you know that it's going to work. With red yeast rice extract, it can be a hit or miss.

discographer
Post 3

@ddljohn-- I have not eaten red yeast rice as food, but I am taking the extract as a supplement. I just had a check-up last week and my bad cholesterol is lower now. It has to be the red yeast rice extract.

Doctors keep saying that red yeast rice might or might not work for cholesterol but I think it definitely works. The extract actually contains the same compound that's found in a cholesterol medication. This is why red yeast rice has an important place in Chinese medicine. I agree that doctor supervision is important, but there is no reason to avoid this extract which has the potential to treat cholesterol.

So far I have not experienced any serious red rice yeast extract side effects. I had an upset stomach once when I took it on an empty stomach but it's never a problem when I take it with a meal.

ddljohn
Post 2

Is eating red yeast rice as food better than taking the red yeast rice extract?

I've been hearing a lot about red yeast rice for cholesterol. I have high cholesterol and I am taking a medication for it. But I would like to try red yeast rice extract as well if it's effective. Has anyone here taken tried it?

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