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Red Yeast Rice

What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is a fermented product made by cultivating rice with a specific type of red yeast, commonly used in traditional Chinese cuisine and medicine.

What are the benefits of Red Yeast Rice?

Cholesterol and metabolic health

Red yeast rice is the product of rice fermented with a various types of yeast. It has been used for a long time in Asian cuisine and traditional medicine for its powerful health-promoting qualities and it is currently popular as a supplement for its scientifically proven medicinal properties. The most common use of red rice yeast is to lower cholesterol [i]. The active ingredients of red rice yeast are similar to the prescription drugs known as “statins”, which are prescribed by doctors to lower cholesterol and to lower heart disease risk. The scientific explanation behind this action is that red rice yeast and statins work on the same pathway, known as the mevalonate pathway. In the use of red rice yeast or statins; the enzyme called HMG Co-A is inhibited, therefore less cholesterol is produced by the body. Red yeast rice contains the compound monacolin K, which is the same active ingredient found in prescription cholesterol-lowering medications like lovastatin [ii]. This action is known to be effective in the same way as statins and therefore a popular choice for those wanting to lower their cholesterol [iii] [iv] [v].

However, it is worth noting that CoQ10, vitamin D and selenoproteins including Glutathione Peroxidase, a powerful antioxidant produced by the body, all use this pathway. Therefore, it is recommended that levels of vitamin D and CoQ10 should be monitored closely with red rice supplementation, as is also the advice regarding statin use [vi] [vii].

Metabolic syndrome is the medical term for a combination of prediabetes or diabetes, high blood pressure (hypertension) and obesity. A small, 18-week study found that a supplement containing red yeast rice was able to reduce blood sugar levels, circulating insulin levels and blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome [viii] [ix].

Another 8-week study looked at the effects of red yeast rice on mice fed a high fat diet compared with a control group. It was found that red yeast rice was able to prevent increases in cholesterol levels and body weight [x].

Anti-inflammatory benefits

It was also found that red rice yeast has an anti-inflammatory effect due to its action against oxidative stress, which can cause damage in the body. A study in 50 people with metabolic syndrome showed that taking a supplement containing red yeast rice and olive extract for 8 weeks reduced levels of oxidative stress by up to 20%. Note that oxidative stress is a leading cause of chronic inflammation.


Red yeast rice that is not fermented correctly may contain citrinin. Citrinin is a poison that may cause kidney damage. Therefore, sourcing from a trusted brand is recommended [xii].

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

Some chemicals in red yeast rice have caused birth defects in animals in studies. There is insufficient evidence to confirm the safety data, therefore it is recommended to discontinue use during pregnancy or breast-feeding [xiii].

Liver disease

Red yeast rice contains chemicals that are similar to the statin drug lovastatin. Lovastatin can cause liver damage. Some research shows that red yeast rice might also cause liver damage to the same degree as lovastatin. Hence, red rice yeast should be avoided in liver disease [xiv].

Interactions with red rice yeast

Statin medications may have an additive effect when combined with red rice yeast and may increase the risk of adverse effects.


Immunosuppressant medication such as Cyclosporine

Drugs to alter blood lipid levels such as Gemfibrozil or Statin medications

Medications that decrease the breakdown of other medications in the liver (Cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) inhibitors). Speak to your prescribing doctor for more information.

Recommended For

Cholesterol , Blood Sugar Balance

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