Red Yeast Rice (RED YEAST) Overview Information
Red yeast is the product of rice fermented with Monascus purpureus yeast. Red yeast supplements are different from red yeast rice sold in Chinese grocery stores. People use red yeast as medicine.
Red yeast is used for maintaining desirable cholesterol levels in healthy people, reducing cholesterol in people with high cholesterol, for indigestion, diarrhea, improving blood circulation, and for spleen and stomach health.
In foods, red yeast is used as a food coloring for Peking duck.
The active ingredient in red yeast is the same as the active ingredient in prescription drugs called statins used for high cholesterol. That’s why red yeast has all the possible side effects, drug interactions, and precautions associated with this type of drug. The American Heart Association warns against using red yeast until the results of long-term studies are in. You should talk with your healthcare provider if you plan to take red yeast.
You may have come across a red yeast product called Cholestin, manufactured by Pharmanex. It was one of the most widely studied red yeast products. Originally, Cholestin contained the same active ingredient found in statin drugs. This caused the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to call Cholestin an unapproved drug. Cholestin was reformulated so that its active ingredient is now something else.
How does it work?
Red yeast supplements are manufactured by culturing Monascus purpureus yeast on rice at carefully controlled temperature and growing conditions to increase the concentrations of chemicals that lower blood cholesterol and triglycerides. These chemicals are similar to the prescription drugs known as "statins," including lovastatin (Mevacor) and others.
Likely Effective for:
- High cholesterol. Some research shows that taking a specific red yeast product for up to 6 months can lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol levels and triglycerides. However, this specific product contains large amounts of a chemical similar to "statin" drugs, such as lovastatin. Statins are approved by the FDA to lower cholesterol. In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now considers this product and other red yeast products that contain statins to be illegal unapproved drugs. However, outside the U.S., these specific red yeast products are still available. Some red yeast products available in the U.S. these days contain little or no statins. It is not known if these products do much to reduce cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol. Some other products still contain significant amounts of statins. One analysis shows that that some of these products can contain up to 5 mg of statins per tablet.
Possibly Effective for:
- Heart disease. Taking 0.6-1.2 grams of red yeast rice daily for an average of 4.5 years decreases total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides. It also decreases the risk of heart disease-related events, heart attacks, and death in people with a history of heart attack.
- High cholesterol and triglyceride levels caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease (AIDS). Taking red yeast rice by mouth seems to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people with abnormal levels associated with HIV infection.
Possibly Ineffective for:
- High blood pressure. Taking red yeast rice with blood pressure-lowering drugs does not seem to further reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure compared to the effects of the blood pressure-lowering drugs alone. However, red yeast rice might improve some heart-related outcomes in patients with high blood pressure.
- Diabetes. Some early research shows that taking 600 mg of red yeast daily for 8 weeks can lower total cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar in people with diabetes. Other research shows that taking 1.2 grams of red yeast rice daily for 12 weeks reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol in people with diabetes and liver disease.
- Liver disease. Some research shows that taking 1.2 grams of red yeast rice daily for 12 weeks reduces levels of liver enzymes associated with liver damage and improves blood thickness in people with diabetes and a certain type of liver disease.
- Improving blood circulation.
- Spleen and stomach problems.
- Other conditions.
Red Yeast Rice (RED YEAST) Side Effects & Safety
Red yeast is POSSIBLY SAFE for most people when taken by mouth for up to 4.5 years.
Red yeast contains chemicals similar to the prescription drugs called "statins." Therefore, red yeast might also cause side effects similar to statin drugs, such as liver damage and severe muscle pain and muscle damage.
There is also concern about product quality. Many red yeast rice products have been found to contain varying amounts of the statin-like chemicals. Some products may contain none and others may contain high amounts, which are more likely to cause serious side effects.
Serious allergic reactions can occur after breathing in red yeast.
Red yeast that is not fermented correctly may contain citrinin. Citrinin is a poison that may cause kidney damage.
Special Precautions & Warnings:Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Red yeast is LIKELY UNSAFE during pregnancy. It has caused birth defects in animals. Not enough is known about the safety of using red yeast during breast-feeding. Don’t use during pregnancy or breast-feeding.
Liver problems: Red yeast contains chemicals that are the same as the statin drug lovastatin. Lovastatin can cause liver damage. Some research shows that red yeast might also cause liver damage. However, other research shows that red yeast might improve liver function in people with certain liver problems. Because of the mixed results, red yeast products should be used cautiously or avoided in people with liver problems.
Moderate Interaction Be cautious with this combination
- Alcohol interacts with RED YEAST
Drinking alcohol might harm the liver. Red yeast might also harm the liver. Taking red yeast along with alcohol might increase the risk of liver damage. Do not drink alcohol if you are taking red yeast.
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) interacts with RED YEAST
Red yeast might affect the muscles. Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) might also affect the muscles. Taking red yeast along with cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune) might cause serious side effects.
- Gemfibrozil (Lopid) interacts with RED YEAST
Gemfibrozil (Lopid) can affect the muscles. Red yeast can also affect the muscles. Taking gemfibrozil along with red yeast might increase the risk of muscle problems.
- Medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs) interacts with RED YEAST
Red yeast contains the statin drug lovastatin. Lovastatin might harm the liver in some people. Taking red yeast along with other medications that might also harm the liver might increase the risk of liver damage. Do not take red yeast if you are taking another medication that can harm the liver.
Some medications that can harm the liver include acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), amiodarone (Cordarone), carbamazepine (Tegretol), isoniazid (INH), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), methyldopa (Aldomet), fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), erythromycin (Erythrocin, Ilosone, others), phenytoin (Dilantin), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), and many others.
- Medications that decrease the break down of other medications in the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inhibitors) interacts with RED YEAST
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver.
Some medications might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down red yeast. Taking red yeast along with some medications that decrease the breakdown of other medications in the liver can increase the effects and side effects of red yeast. Before taking red yeast, talk to your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications that are changed by the liver.
Some medications that might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down red yeast include amiodarone (Cordarone), clarithromycin (Biaxin), diltiazem (Cardizem), erythromycin (E-mycin, Erythrocin), indinavir (Crixivan), ritonavir (Norvir), saquinavir (Fortovase, Invirase), and many others.
- Medications used for lowering cholesterol (Statins) interacts with RED YEAST
Red yeast can help lower cholesterol. Taking red yeast along with other medications used to lower cholesterol might increase the risk of adverse effects. Do not take red yeast if you are already taking medications used for lowering cholesterol.
Some medications used for high cholesterol include cerivastatin (Baycol), atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), and others.
- Niacin interacts with RED YEAST
Niacin can affect the muscles. Red yeast can also affect the muscles. Taking niacin along with red yeast might increase the risk of muscle problems.
Red Yeast Rice (RED YEAST) Dosing
The following doses have been studied in scientific research:
- High cholesterol: 1200 mg to 2400 mg of red yeast once or twice daily. Only products containing chemicals similar to the prescription “statin” cholesterol drugs have been shown to lower cholesterol levels. Many of these products provide approximately 5-10 mg of the statin drug called lovastatin.
- High cholesterol related to HIV infection: 1200 mg twice daily.