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Cholesterol-Fighting Red Yeast Rice Supplements Vary Widely In Formulations

October 25, 2010: 05:47 PM EST

The dietary supplement red yeast rice (RYR) – also known as hong qu – is advertised as a natural therapeutic for treating hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglycerides). A number of brands are available on the market, and a U.S. study has found wide variations in their active ingredient formulations. One brand, the study found, even contained detectable levels of a toxic substance. RYR is made by culturing a yeast (Monascus purpureus) on rice. That process yields compounds called monacolins, one of which has been purified and marketed as lovastatin. American consumers in 2008 spent about $20 million on the supplement. But, researchers concluded, there is a “need for improved standardization of RYR products and product labeling” and until then “physicians should be cautious in recommending RYR to their patients.”

Ram Y. Gordon, MD; Tod Cooperman, MD; William Obermeyer, PhD, David J. Becker, MD, et al. , "Marked Variability of Monacolin Levels in Commercial Red Yeast Rice Products: Buyer Beware!", Archives of Internal Medicine, October 25, 2010, © American Medical Association
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