Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Red Yeast for Cholesterol: it Works, BUT PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

redyeast.jpgJohn’s cholesterol is high but he doesn’t like taking prescription drugs. Should he take red yeast as a “natural” alternative? Evidence shows that it is effective in lowering cholesterol.

In 1994, the Diet Supplement Health and Education Act was passed, allowing the fiction that “natural” medicines are really “foods” and need not be regulated the way prescription medicines are. Do we need to supplement our diet with red yeast? Do we suffer from a red yeast deficiency? Of course not. People are really taking it as a medicine, not as a supplement to their diet.

If you take a prescription drug, the FDA ensures that it contains the amount the label says, that it doesn’t contain any contaminants, and that it has been tested and found safe and effective. You also get a list of known side effects and drug interactions. If you take a diet supplement you don’t get any of those safeguards.

Red yeast contains lovastatin, the same thing that’s in prescription Mevacor. If it’s not fermented properly, it contains citrinin, a mycotoxin that causes kidney damage. It also contains some other stuff; we’re not sure what all the other stuff does.

An independent testing agency, ConsumerLab, recently tested 10 red yeast products. The amount of active ingredient varied by more than 100-fold, and some of the products contained practically none. More worrisome, 4 of the 10 products contained kidney-damaging citrinin. [Product review: Red yeast rice supplements.ConsumerLab.Com, July 18, 2008]

The FDA has ordered several manufacturers to stop marketing red yeast for cholesterol control, but it can still be sold without specific cholesterol-lowering claims. The FDA has issued a warning to consumers. 

You might think you could use information from ConsumerLab to choose a good brand, but there’s no guarantee that future batches of that brand will be consistent. Prescription drugs carry some risks of their own; why compound the risks by taking something less studied and less regulated? Buyer beware!