Drug company executives would rather you never know anything about these three words: red yeast rice.
For more than 1,000 years, red yeast rice (a yeast product grown on rice) has been used in Chinese medicine to improve blood circulation and aid digestion.
But when modern drug companies developed drugs to lower cholesterol, they didn’t want to compete with this inexpensive botanical product. So red yeast rice was demonized.
Red yeast rice contains same active chemical as a statin
It was even banned for a while because it contained exactly the same active chemical used in lovastatin, one of the commercial statin drugs. (Of course, red yeast rice contained it first!)
A couple of years ago, the FDA issued a news release, warning consumers about two red yeast rice formulas that were found to contain lovastatin.
Why the warning? “These red yeast rice products are a threat to health because the possibility exists that lovastatin can cause severe muscle problems leading to kidney impairment.”
See how cleverly they worded that? The “red yeast rice products are a threat to health.” But only because they contained a statin!
Here’s another helping of irony: New research shows that patients who experience severe muscle problems caused by statin drugs can use red yeast rice instead. They’ll still lower cholesterol, but they won’t damage their muscles or kidneys.
Gee! Someone should have thought of using this stuff, like, a thousand years ago!
Mainstream doc admits red yeast rice is effective
HSI Panelist Allan Spreen, M.D., recently sent me a Medscape write up about the new red yeast rice study.
Medscape is a very mainstream resource for medical professionals. And I admit, I just rolled my eyes when I started the article. The opening paragraphs read like an advertisement for statins. For instance: “The significant benefits of statins are hard to refute.”
Ah yes. Same old same old.
But after getting the required homage to statins out of the way, surprises are in store.
For instance: The author notes the prevalence of muscle pain and weakness caused by statins. But then he actually offers evidence that this problem may be more widespread than generally believed.
Didn’t see that coming!
Then, on to red yeast rice, and the author actually states that “there is good research to support its efficacy.” What!? Who is this blasphemer and how did he get in the cathedral? (He’s Charles P. Vega, M.D. – a California family physician.)
Red yeast rice significantly lowered LDL cholesterol
Dr. Vega reviews the new clinical trial that shows how red yeast rice significantly lowered LDL cholesterol in a group of patients who had previously suffered muscle problems while taking statins. And yet, no muscle pains were reported with red yeast rice.
But he’s just getting warmed up. Next he has the audacity to mention research that suggests red yeast rice may be “as or more effective than a statin.” Then he cites a study of 5,000 subjects, all with a history of heart attack. What did red yeast rice do for them? It reduced risk of non-fatal heart attack by more than 60 percent and death due to heart disease by more than 30 percent.
Nailed it, Dr. Vega!
Talk to your doctor before using red yeast rice to lower cholesterol. Or better yet, direct him to Dr. Vega’s article on Medscape.
But a word of caution: Do some serious research or consult an herbalist before choosing an red yeast rice product. You want to be absolutely sure you’re getting a good product…one that’s good enough that Big Pharma wants it banned.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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