Red Yeast Rice – Benefits, Side Effects


What is red yeast rice ?

Red yeast rice has been a part of the staple food and traditional Chinese medicine for many centuries. It is known for its various health benefits and multiple nutritional contents. A unique fermentation process, that uses the yeast bacterium known as Monascus purpureus and rice, is used to prepare red yeast rice.

Red yeast rice is readily available as nutritional supplements in various health stories across the United States. Certain Asian grocery stores also tend to sell red yeast along with rice. One must consult a doctor before consuming red yeast rice as it is known to interfere with some prescription drugs and has side effects as well as health risks.

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History of Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice has been used in China for many centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes. It has been used to add color to various food items such as Peking duck, pickled tofu, etc; to make Chinese wine and Korean rice wine; and to add a subtle distinct flavor to the food. The use of red yeast rice in traditional Chinese medicine dates back to as far as the Tang Dynasty of 800 AD. It was consumed to increase energy levels in the body, to rejuvenate the blood and to help the digestive process.

The FDA has maintained that red yeast items that contain monacolin K/lovastatin, are similar to a drug and hence under their jurisdiction. Cholestin was a product that contained red yeast rice and banned by FDA in 1998. Red yeast rice then disappeared from US markets, before making a comeback in 2003. Most of these red yeast rice products have avoided the ban by reducing the monacolin content to almost nil.

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Health benefits of Red Yeast Rice

  • The active components of red yeast rice perform the same functions as those performed by prescription medications belonging to the statin family. Hence, consumption of red yeast rice can help in the control and lowering of cholesterol levels. The active substances essentially increase the HDL and significantly lower the LDL.
  • Along with lowering of cholesterol, red yeast rice can also help reduce the triglyceride levels.
  • Certain disorders such as diarrhea and indigestion can also be treated with red yeast rice intake. Its use can also improve the overall health of the spleen and stomach.
  • Individuals with underlying heart conditions can reduce the risk to the rate of cardiac attacks by consuming red yeast rice supplements.
  • There is very weak evidence that suggests that red yeast rice intake can result in blood flow improvements as well as prevention and treatment of diabetes.

Red Yeast RiceĀ Side Effects

  • Medical preparations that use red yeast rice can result in side effects such as dizziness, heartburn and gas.
  • Certain products of red yeast rice may contain hazardous levels of citrinin, which is a derivative of the fermentation process and a toxic substance.
  • Some individuals can experience near fatal allergic reactions and stomach pain due to red yeast rice intake.
  • Since red yeast rice functions in the same manner as the medicine lovastatin, individuals with liver abnormalities and pregnant women should avoid its intake. This is because it can cause lovastatin-like side effects such as muscle pain and weakness.
  • Red yeast rice can also result in serious health complications when consumed in combination with certain drugs such as antifungal medications, cyclosporine, etc. Hence, always consult a doctor before consuming it.

Red Yeast Rice-Nutritional information

  • The exact nutritional content of red yeast rice is unknown.
  • Different red yeast rice products vary in nutritional content.
  • For example, each Herbal Actives brand red yeast softgel tablet supplement has 1 g fat and 10 calories. Each tablet contains 600 mg extract of red yeast rice and 600 mg of an omega fatty acid mixture that includes extra virgin olive oil, fish oil, borage oil and flax oil. They also have glycerin, water, gelatin, soybean oil and beeswax.
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One Comment

  1. The herb has been used in traditional medicine to treat gastric problems such as indigestion, diarrhea, lower cholesterol, aid blood circulation and enhance spleen and stomach health. While red yeast rice is an amazingly effective natural remedy, purchasing low-quality red yeast rice may actually cause more harm than good, so it is essential to know what to look for.

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