January 26, 2010

Red Yeast Rice Extract: Dangerous?

How Dangerous Are Red Yeast Rice Side Effects?
By Max Wardlow

What are red yeast rice side effects? Is it a safe natural alternative to help support balanced cholesterol levels?

These are valid questions especially in view of the controversy generated around red yeast rice the last several years as several popular brands of red yeast rice (RYR) supplements were pulled from the market by the FDA.

RYR has been used for over a thousand years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a promoter of blood circulation and a digestive stimulant.

Recent research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concludes that red yeast rice has significant cholesterol-lowering effects.

Based on recent research, 62 people who were unable to continue treatment with prescription cholesterol lowering drugs due to adverse side effects, took RYR supplements and made lifestyle adjustments for six months. After three months, the LDL (so-called "bad" cholesterol) levels of those taking the active supplements had declined 27%, compared to 6% in the placebo group.

Red Yeast Rice Side Effects - Is It Safe?

In 2007, several brands of popular RYR supplements were pulled from the market by the FDA. The official reason given was safety concerns because of the use of standardized extracts which FDA tests found contained high levels of lovastatin, the active ingredient in Mevacor, a prescription drug approved for marketing in the United States as a treatment for high cholesterol.

Although safety reasons were the official explanation for pulling the RYR products, there has been legal dispute as to whether RYR is a drug or a dietary supplement, involving the supplement manufacturers, the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry, particularly producers of so-called "statin drugs."

Apparently, the safety concern is based on the known risks and side effects of prescription cholesterol lowering statin drugs which rely on lovastatin as the main active ingredient. The safety concern was for only certain red yeast rice supplements containing high levels of the standardized extract lovastatin. This is why manufacturers of holistic herbal remedies don't use or approve of the standardization process.

The standardization process involves the isolation and concentration of a single ingredient (lovastatin for example). This is done with harsh chemicals, traces of which can't be fully removed from the final product. It's a well known principle in traditional herbalism that isolation and concentration enhances the potency of a single ingredient while also increasing the risk of side effects.

Another recent example of the dangers of using this manufacturing process includes the development of liver toxicity from using Kava Kava standardized extract, an herb which has been safely used for hundreds of years.

Red yeast rice in its natural state consists of 14 monacolin compounds such as monacolin K, a natural lovastatin. From a holistic point-of-view these other monacolins, along with its naturally occurring fatty acids, anti-oxidants and other nutrients, work together to enhance its cholesterol-balancing and other health enhancing benefits without producing negative side effects.

The mainstream medical community is slow to accept red yeast rice as an alternative to statin drugs, even though there is no solid evidence that RYR is unsafe. The quality of nutritional supplements on the market does vary and it's the responsibility of the supplement user to locate high quality products manufactured by companies that follow agreed upon good manufacturing practices (GMP).

If you have concerns about red yeast rice side effects, look for supplements produced without the use of standardized extracts. Take a little time to read labels and research products. If you have questions or concerns, consult your health care provider before starting any supplementation program.

Max Wardlow is an independent natural health and nutritional supplement researcher and helps manage a website about natural remedies. Visit today to find out more about safe, high quality red yeast rice supplements.

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