Red yeast rice is fermented rice with a bright reddish purple color. The color is a result of being cultivated with the moldMonascusPurpureus. The rice itself is used in cuisine mainly for its color, but it does have a mild pleasant taste. It is also used to color foods such as pickled tofu and red rice vinegar and is used in the production of Japanese Saki and Korean rice wine among other wines and foods such as PekingDuck.
Medicinally red yeast rice has also been used for thousands of years in Chinese Herbology and Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been documented as far back as 800 ADused to revitalize and invigorate the body and blood and to aid in digestion.
Monacolins derived from Monascus were discovered in the 1970s to be identical to lovastatin, but lovastatin became the patented drug Mevacor, used to lower high cholesterol, and red yeast rice was marketed as a non-prescription dietary supplement. The use of it became an issue of contention with pharmaceutical companies who felt that as red rice yeast contained the equivalent of lovastatin, that people using any natural supplementwould not be monitoring any red rice yeast side effects and therefore could be dangerous.
Lovastatin and monacolins found in red yeast rice both lower the bad cholesterol LDL, and red yeast rice extract when used properly has also been known to improve the good cholesterol HDL. In fact it has been proven in clinical trials that red yeast rice works as well as or better than drugs meant to lower cholesterol.
As well as the benefits of red yeast rice, there are red yeast rice side effects to be aware of as in any new medicine or supplement. Some of these side effects are headaches, indigestion, bloating and gas, dizziness, heartburn, muscle and joint pain, liver inflammation and damage to peripheral nerves. There are also more serious but rare red rice yeast side effects to be aware of, particularly before you begin to take it. Rhabdomyolysis is the breakdown of muscle tissue and can lead to liver failure. It is always wise to discuss any new addition to your supplements with your family physician. Red yeast rice may also interfere with your body’s ability to produce CoQ10, a side effect of statin drugs. CoQ10 is produced in every cell in your body and is responsible for producing your body’s energy. People who are more prone by this side effect are persons over 50, people with diabetes and people who have or are at risk of heart failure or cardiomyopathy. People having trouble producing CoQ10 can take effective supplements in order to make sure there body is getting the energy it needs.
If you are considering taking red yeast rice supplements for your cholesterol levels, it is best to discuss this first with your doctor. Taking it in moderation initially is your best option, work up to the recommended dosage on the bottle and monitor yourself for red yeast rice side effects. If you experience severe red yeast rice side effects, stop taking it immediately and report it to your doctor and to the manufacturer as well.