A Natural Cholesterol-Lowering Supplement Red Yeast Rice Poses Same Health Risks As Statin Drugs
a new study contends.
Red yeast rice could increase risk of muscle injury or liver damage, Italian researchers reported after reviewing 13 years of patient data.
“These findings raise the hypothesis that the safety profile of red yeast rice is highly similar to that of synthetic statins and warrants further investigations to finally characterize the safety profile of red yeast rice,” the researchers concluded.
American heart experts said it’s not surprising that the researchers discovered adverse reactions to red yeast rice that are similar to those produced by statins.
That’s because one of the compounds in red yeast rice — monacolin K — has the same chemical structure as the statin drug lovastatin, said Dr. Paul Thompson.
“Statins actually exist in nature, in fungi and molds and stuff like that,” said Thompson, an American College of Cardiology fellow. “Patients need to know there is lovastatin in this product.” (Brand names for lovastatin are Mevacor and Altoprev.)
However, the new report only details 55 reports of adverse reactions during the entire study period. To Thompson, this indicates they are “a very rare problem.”
“It’s a tempest in a teapot,” Thompson said of the new study.
Red Yeast Rice Is Concocted From Yeast Grown On Rice
U.S. sales of red yeast rice dietary supplements totaled about $20 million a year in both 2008 and 2009, the most recent years for which data are available, according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration views red yeast rice products containing more than trace amounts of monacolin K as unapproved new drugs, since they are chemically identical to lovastatin, and cannot be sold legally as dietary supplements.
But dozens of red yeast rice products remain on the market. And products tested as recently as 2011 have been found to contain monacolin K in substantial amounts, the NCCIH says.
For the new study, the Italian researchers reviewed government data collected on natural health products between April 2002 and September 2015.
Reports of muscle pain came from 19 patients, including some who experienced an increase in levels of creatine phosphokinase, an enzyme released when muscle tissue is damaged, the researchers said.
Thirteen of 14 “serious” cases required hospitalization. Ten patients suffered liver damage, the researchers found.
In addition, 12 patients reported gastrointestinal reactions that included upset stomach, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
The researchers noted that muscle pain and liver damage are common side effects of statins, which countless people take to lower their cholesterol and their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Study Doesn’t Directly Tie Red Yeast Rice To Any Of These Health Problems
“There’s no way to be absolutely guaranteed certain that most of these cases were related to the red yeast rice,” he said. Thompson is chief of cardiology at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.
Patients with high cholesterol often buy red yeast rice over the counter when they’re concerned about the side effects of prescription statins, said Dr. Robert Eckel, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.
“You have to let them know that, well, you’re actually taking a statin,” said Eckel, who’s also a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition, a supplement manufacturer trade group, recommends that people talk with their doctor before taking red yeast rice to lower cholesterol.
“For the small percentage of people who may have an adverse response to red yeast rice, a doctor can help to determine whether it can be tolerated, and if not, to seek other alternatives,” said Duffy MacKay. He’s the council’s senior vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs.
Some clinical trials have shown that people with a history of statin intolerance seem to tolerate red yeast rice, Eckel said.
Thompson said he prescribes a fair amount of red yeast rice in his clinic as a way to ease reluctant patients into statin treatment.
But because it’s a supplement, the amount of active ingredient in red yeast rice can vary widely from brand to brand and even batch to batch, Thompson and Eckel said.
“The products are not as well-controlled and the dosages are variable,” Eckel said.
Red yeast rice also can prove expensive if taken regularly, because it isn’t covered by insurance, Thompson said.
“My advice is people should take regular statins, even if they have to take it at very low doses,” Thompson said.
The new study appears in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.
SOURCES: Paul D. Thompson, M.D., chief, cardiology, Hartford Hospital, Hartford, Conn., and fellow, American College of Cardiology; Robert Eckel, M.D., professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine, and spokesman, American Heart Association; Duffy MacKay, senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, Council for Responsible Nutrition; Jan. 19, 2017, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, online
News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The information herein on "Red Yeast Rice & Statin Alternative Not Harmless" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.
Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.