As popular as statins drugs are, the doctors who prescribe them are finding one unexpected problem: Up to 40 percent of their patients either stop taking them or they refuse to take them in the first place!
I’m not surprised. Statins carry a host of side effects, including gastrointestinal problems, headache, dizziness, fatigue, rash and sleep disturbances. More serious side effects include muscle weakness, myopathy, nerve damage, liver damage and rhabdomyolysis – the breakdown of muscle tissue that can lead to potentially fatal kidney failure.
Unfortunately, most doctors don’t know that there are natural alternative to statin drugs that are far safer and just as effective. So they take a different approach to this phenomenon. When scientists at the University of California, San Diego, investigated how doctors respond to patient reports of statin-related side effects, they found that most didn’t bother reporting these adverse events to the FDA. Instead, they denied that the drugs could cause undesirable symptoms, seemed not to care, told their patients they were imagining the pain, mistakenly attributed symptoms to aging or simply refused to believe their patients’ complaints!
But, as I said, there are alternatives. One of the best is red yeast rice. Red yeast rice is produced when a certain type of yeast, Monascus purpureus, is fermented over red rice. It has been used in Asian countries for more than a thousand years as both food and medicine. Recently, however, natural health practitioners in the U.S. and Europe have discovered its powerful cholesterol-lowering properties.
One recent clinical trial by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine gave 43 adults with high cholesterol either 2,400 mg. of red yeast rice or 20 mg. of Pravacol. After 12 weeks, they found that that red yeast rice was not only slightly more effective, it was also better tolerated than the statin drug.
Other studies have found that red yeast rice can lower both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. However, my conventional counterparts might be unfamiliar with this research. Here’s a quick run-down:
An eight-week study at the University of California, Los Angeles, compared red yeast rice with a placebo in 83 people with high cholesterol. The results, which were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that the supplement significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol.
In another study, which appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a group of physicians verified the significant cholesterol-lowering effect of red yeast rice in people who couldn’t tolerate statin drugs. The study included 62 people who stopped taking statins because of side effects. All of them followed a lifestyle change program that included learning about nutrition, exercise and relaxation techniques. Half also took 1,800 mg. of red yeast rice twice a day, while the others took a dummy pill. The group taking red yeast rice experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 43 points in a mere 12 weeks compared to just 11 points in the placebo group.
Other research in China, which has been published in the American Journal of Cardiology and other scientific journals, has found that red yeast rice significantly reduces rates of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease.
The reason red yeast rice works so well is because it contains a small amount of a natural statin called lovastatin. Lovastatin is the same compound found in the prescription drug, Mevacor. But unlike Mevacor, red yeast rice also contains other compounds like plant sterols that might have a positive impact on blocking cholesterol absorption. Researchers have also determined that another ingredient in red yeast rice called monacolin K inhibits the production of cholesterol by interfering with HMG-CoA reductase, a key enzyme in the liver responsible for manufacturing cholesterol.
But, even though red yeast rice is a natural product, because it acts like a statin, it can still impact the liver to some degree. That’s why it’s important to have your liver function checked periodically.
And like statins, red yeast rice may also inhibit the natural synthesis of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), which is needed for optimum heart health. Take 100 to 200 mg of CoQ10 daily when taking red yeast rice—or use a formula that combines red yeast rice and CoQ10.
Becker DJ. Red Yeast Rice for Dyslipidemia in Statin-Intolerant Patients: A Randomized Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009; 150: 830-839.
Halbert SC. Tolerability of red yeast rice (2,400 mg twice daily) versus pravastatin (20 mg twice daily) in patients with previous statin intolerance. American Journal of Cardiology. 2010;105:198-204.
Yang HT. Acute administration of red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus) depletes tissue coenzyme Q(10) levels in ICR mice. British Journal of Nutrition. 2005;93:131-135.
Dr. David J. Blyweiss began his medical career as a clinical pharmacist in South Florida prior to earning his medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine in 1982.
His dual background allowed him to appreciate the relevance of conventional pharmaceutical/surgical based treatments in acute medical conditions, and recognize where these approaches fell short in treating the majority of patients who suffered from the chronic degenerative diseases of "western civilization origin."
Over the last twenty years, with the nutritional medical knowledge base expanding in the fields of nutrigenomics, protemics, and other related "orthomolecular" disciplines directed towards patients' biochemical individuality, Dr. Blyweiss became an early adherent and experienced practitioner of what would become known as "functional medicine." This knowledge allows him to effectively manage and alleviate the symptoms related to the most "difficult-to-treat" conditions by addressing the underlying causes, allowing the body to heal itself.
Dr. Blyweiss was one of the initial researchers doing the early work on chlorhexidine (Phisohex) while earning his first post graduate degree at Temple University School of Pharmacy. During medical school he worked with the WHO (World Health Organization) in vaccinating children in the islands of the Carribbean. He has traveled much of the world, most recently to Belize, Central America, Gabon, Africa, and Zagreb, Croatia working closely with teams of specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit as well as researchers and their stem cell transplantation teams. He has consulted for and created state-of-the-art nutritional supplements for multiple nutritional companies since 1999. He is currently in private practice in South Florida where he resides with his family.