Red yeast rice is a dietary supplement that is commonly used to regulate cholesterol and is associated with many side effects. It is important to think about these possible side effects before you start taking the supplement if you are using red yeast rice.
Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, a kind of red yeast (Monascus purpureus) is formed by fermenting the rice. It includes a class of monacolins that includes lovastatin (active ingredient in a variety of prescription medicines used in the treatment of high cholesterol).
The FDA has banned the selling of lovastatin-free red leaf rice products saying that such products ‘may contain a medication that is not approved and that may be harmful to health.’ While some dietary supplements contain lovastatin-free red leaf rice, little is known about the efficacy of these supplements in reducing cholesterol levels.
What are Red Yeast Rice’s side effects?
Lovastatin contained in some products of red yeasts can cause various side effects, including extreme muscle pain , muscle injury, and injury to the kidneys and liver. There is also concern that rice without lovastatin red yeast can cause similar side effects.
When misfermented, red yeast rice can contain citrin (a toxic substance that could cause damage to the kidney).
Moreover, red yeast rice can cause mild side effects including headaches, sickening and stomach upset.3
Red Yeast Rice Studies & Side Effects
In 2009, researchers analysed a number of published case reports in the journal Pharmacy and Therapeutics indicating possible side effects associated with the use of red yeast rice.
These cases include myopathy, a form of neuromuscular disease in which muscle weakness due to muscle fibre dysfunction is the main symptom.
Red yeast rice was also associated with the development of a condition known as rhabdomyolysis in the 2009 study. A degradation of the muscle tissue in rhabdomyolysis contributes to the release of muscle fibre in the blood. These muscle fibres, harmful to the kidney, can cause kidney damage.
In conclusion , the authors of the 2009 report reported that “red yeast products may benefit from a reduction in levels of serum cholesterol but are not free of risk.” In addition , the authors added that “the uniformity of product, cleanliness, labelling and reliability of rice supplements can not be guaranteed.”
Side and Safety Consequences
The National Institutes of Health ( NIH) suggests that Red rice is probably healthy for most people when taken by mouth for up to 4 1/2 years. Nevertheless, the NIH also notes that rice with red yeasts is possibly unhealthy in pregnancy.4 Red rice with yeast has been shown to cause birth defects in animal studies.
Given the potential health risks associated with the use of red yeast rice, if you intend to use this supplement for some reason it’s necessary to consult a doctor.
Color Yeast Rice Alternatives
Red yeast rice is only one of the natural remedies that is marketed as an alternative form of managed cholesterol. Some research indicates, for example, that herbs like garlic and guggul can also lead to cholesterol reduction.
Moreover, there is some evidence that drinking green tea regularly, increasing soy consumption, filling up omega 3 fatty acids and using plant sterols will help with the control of cholesterol5.
Such alternative remedies, including red yeast rice, can cause some side effects. Given the health risks, avoiding red yeast rice products would be prudent. To protect against the possible adverse effects of any form of food supplement, learn to use supplements safely but be sure to discuss supplements with your doctor.