Chinese Red Yeast Rice for Lowering Cholesterol?

Chinese Red Yeast Rice for Lowering Cholesterol?

Over the past year, there have been several research studies on the efficacy and safety for Chinese red yeast rice supplements for lowering cholesterol levels particularly in patients who cannot tolerate statin-type medication.  I thought it would be worthwhile to provide a brief overview of two of these recent studies.  Note, I have no actual idea what the writing says on this image, but I think that it’s “Red yeast rice” written in Cantonese or Mandarin–let me know if you can read it.

What Is Red Yeast Rice?

Chinese red yeast rice is a dietary supplement which contains monacolins, unsaturated fatty acids, and phytosterols capable of lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.  Specifically, tt is a Chinese fermented rice product (Monascus purpureus).

Lipid-Lowering Efficacy of Red Yeast Rice in a Population Intolerant to Statins:

A recent review published in the American Journal of Cardiology (Venero et al, 2010), evaluated red yeast rice therapy in patients who were intolerant to statin medication.

Study Results:

“Most (92%) patients tolerated the treatment, and many (56%) achieved their LDL cholesterol goal.

In patients unable to tolerate daily statin use, the total cholesterol level decreased 13% (-33 +/- 10 mg/dl, p <0.001) and LDL cholesterol decreased 19% (-31 +/- 4 mg/dl, p <0.001).”

Study Conclusions:

“In conclusion, red yeast rice modestly decreased total and LDL cholesterol, was well-tolerated, and was an acceptable alternative in patients intolerant of other lipid-lowering medications.”

Tolerability of Red yeast rice vs. Prevastatin:

In another recent study published in the Amercian Journal of Cardiology (Halbert et al, 2010), the study authors compared the efficacy and tolerability of Red yeast rice (2400 mg twice daily) to Prevastatin (20 mg twice daily) for 12 weeks.

All subjects were also enrolled in a 12-week therapeutic lifestyle program.

Study Results

“The incidence of withdrawal from medication owing to myalgia (muscle pain) was 5% (1 of 21) in the red yeast rice group and 9% (2 of 22) in the pravastatin group (p = 0.99).

The low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level decreased 30% in the red yeast rice group and 27% in the pravastatin group.”

Study Conclusions:

“In conclusion, red yeast rice was tolerated as well as pravastatin and achieved a comparable reduction of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in a population previously intolerant to statins.”


  • One issue with using Chinese red yeast rice is that product uniformity and purity can vary by manufacturer.
  • Both of these studies suggest that red yeast rice is effective for lowering LDL cholesterol.
  • Red yeast rice was well-tolerated in both of these studies, but it still has the potential to cause side effects including myopathy.


  1. Venero CV, Venero JV, Wortham DC, Thompson PD.  Lipid-lowering efficacy of red yeast rice in a population intolerant to statins.  Am J Cardiol. 2010 Mar 1;105(5):664-6.
  2. Halbert SC, French B, Gordon RY, Farrar JT, Schmitz K, Morris PB, Thompson PD, Rader DJ, Becker DJ.  Tolerability of red yeast rice (2,400 mg twice daily) versus pravastatin (20 mg twice daily) in patients with previous statin intolerance.  Am J Cardiol. 2010 Jan 15;105(2):198-204. Epub 2009 Nov 26.
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