‘Add colors to life’ does have a strong meaning but what about ‘add colors to rice?’ We started with white rice, proceeded to brown and yellowish rice and now landed up with red yeast rice. Every time a new rice variant enters the market, there are various pros and cons about it, newspaper and magazines either boost or attack the new variant and ultimately, the frenzy surrounding it dies in sometime. But the buildup lingers until every soul is aware of the latest launch in the market!
Red Yeast Rice
Red yeast rice is an ancient Chinese culinary and medicinal product now used by people across all countries worldwide. This has lured the attention of people because it is claimed to be a ‘natural’ product used for lowering cholesterol levels but there are not many studies supporting its long-term safety and efficiency. Various types of the extract are sold as supplements but the effect of these on our system is not yet clear.
Red yeast rice is produced by culturing rice with different strains of the yeast Monascus purpureus and red yeast rice extract is a substance procured from this rice. RTRE contains various ingredients that help to control cholesterol levels and the most conspicuous among them are monacolins, specifically monacolin K. Monacolin K is chemically identical to the active ingredient present in the drug lovastatin. Lovastatin is a cholesterol-lowering drug belonging to the statin drug family. The main role of these drugs is to lower cholesterol levels by suppressing their production in the liver.
The primary reason why these drugs are not approved as cholesterol-lowering agents formally is primarily because the ingredients present in different brands of the rice extract vary vastly. Composition of the product differs depending on the culture conditions and the strain of Monascus used to produce the extract. Also, the conditions under which culinary red yeast rice is produced is completely different from the conditions and strains used to manufacture products useful in lowering cholesterol levels. FDA tests do confirm this as strains of red yeast rice manufactured for culinary use contain none or only traces of monacolin K.
Going by Science
Using red yeast rice products that contained substantial amounts of monacolin K on individuals participating in clinical trials resulted in reduced total and LDL cholesterol levels in them. Studies in USA indicate that using around 2.4 gm/day of RDRE reduces total cholesterol levels by as much as 20-25%. Another study in China on 5000 participants who took the extract twice a day for five years showed that these individuals were 30-33% less likely to die from coronary artery disease or heart attack. Whereas using extracts that contain little or no monacolin K may have no impact on the study participants. There are even studies which show that people intolerant towards statin drugs owing to side effects (weakness and muscle pain) were tolerant towards red yeast rice. This might be due to difference in monacolin K quantity in the two products (rice extract comparatively contains decreased amount).
What are Supplements without Side Effects?
The best way to lower your cholesterol levels is naturally through a healthy diet, an active lifestyle and regular exercise. Losing excess weight, avoiding smoking and exercising regularly helps to increase HDL cholesterol levels. Meeting a registered dietitian nutritionist at www.firsteatright.com can help you in your weight loss journey and guide you to eat the right kind of foods. Despite all these efforts if you still require medications to lower cholesterol, it is advisable to take medications as you are aware of the quantity of active ingredients in the pill and also their potential side effects and risk factors.
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