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Red yeast rice.

Q My statin causes me to suffer from muscle aches and pains, and a friend suggested I take a natural supplement called red yeast rice instead. What is this, and is it a healthier option than statins?

A Red yeast rice has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries, and contains several substances that are known to inhibit cholesterol synthesis--in fact one of these forms the basis of lovastatin (Mevacor). One study showed that red yeast rice lowered LDL ("bad") cholesterol by an average of 35 points, and total cholesterol by an average of 37 point across a 28-week trial.

However, red yeast rice is not without its drawbacks. Because it is considered to be a supplement it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, meaning that no measures are taken to standardize the amount of active ingredient in any given product. There is no verification process to ensure that a product contains the amount listed on the label, and other ingredients may be in the supplement in addition to red yeast rice (some red yeast rice supplements have been found to contain a toxic substance called citronen).

Red yeast rice also may cause side effects similar to those that can occur with lovastatin--including the muscle discomfort you are hoping to avoid. For that reason, don't substitute it for your statin without first talking to your doctor, especially as your muscle pain may be alleviated by lowering your statin dose, or switching to an alternative drug.

Judith Beizer, PharmD

Geriatric Pharmacology

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Title Annotation:ASK THE EXPERTS
Author:Beizer, Judith
Publication:Focus on Healthy Aging
Date:Jun 1, 2018
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