Dietary supplements: red yeast rice against cholesterol?
Red yeast rice is produced by fermenting rice with Monascus purpureus yeast. It contains monacoline K, which presents the same pharmacological characteristics as statins, one of the most prescribed classes of medication in the world when it comes to lowering bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) levels and increasing good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) levels. Can it be taken without risk as a dietary supplement?
Dietary supplements are in fashion. Among the most well known: red yeast rice, phytosterols, which are found in plants and vegetable oils and have an effect on cholesterol intestinal absorption, and omega-3 fatty acids, which have a proven impact on cardiovascular mortality. An American study showed that 75% of people with a cardiovascular disease used dietary supplements. To this day, only one study, a Chinese one, showed the effectiveness of red rice yeast, with a 30% decrease in cardiovascular mortality.
The question is: can this red rice yeast be offered outside of the approved medication circuit, knowing that its adverse effects are the same as the ones of synthetic statins?
In fashion… but with caution
Any person with high cholesterol levels and a confirmed health risk should first and foremost turn to a specialist who will be able to judge if it is useful or not. Taking a dietary supplement might not be sufficient to lower cholesterol levels enough to reduce the patient’s cardiovascular risks. One should also be careful not to cumulate red yeast rice with a synthetic statin, which would augment any adverse effects.
On the legislative level, Switzerland has chosen to ban red yeast rice. In Belgium, it is authorized for sale, providing a premarket notification is filed. This notification rule actually applies to all dietary supplements. It involves creating a comprehensive file that documents the product’s characteristics, a process which Euro Consultants is able to complete.