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Health Effects of Red Yeast Rice: Benefits and Side Effects

What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is a type of fermented rice, and culinary and medicinal product.(1) It is an ingredient in Chinese medicine and is known to have biological properties, including improving blood circulation.(2)

It is prepared by fermenting rice with specific species of mold Monascus purpureus.

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Red yeast contains an enzyme known as Monacolin K, which is identical to the active ingredients in some statins. This may work by inhibiting the enzymes that are essential for the creation of cholesterol in the liver and is known to support heart health.

Benefits of Red Yeast Rice

The potential benefits of red yeast rice are as follows:

  1. Promotes Heart Health

    Heart disease is a serious condition that is estimated to account for 3.5% of death worldwide.(3)

    A high blood cholesterol level is the main risk factor for heart disease as it causes the arteries to narrow and stiffen thereby increasing the risk of a heart attack.

    Red yeast rice is a common remedy that can lower cholesterol levels and promote heart health.(4) A review of 21 studies found red yeast to be effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and triglycerides and blood pressure when combined with statins.(5)

    Along with this monacolin K present in red yeast rice help in improving endothelial function and adaptability of blood vessels. This is helpful in maintaining vascular and heart health.(6)

  2. Treats Metabolic Syndrome

    Metabolic syndrome includes numerous conditions that increase the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

    Some of these conditions include high blood pressure, excessive body fat, an increase in blood sugar, and alternation in cholesterol and triglycerides.(7)

    Studies show that red yeast rice can be helping in treating as well as preventing these conditions.(8) Another study showed supplementing red yeast rice could be helpful in reducing blood sugar, insulin levels, and systolic blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome.(9)

  3. Help Reduce Inflammation

    Inflammation is a normal immune response of the body to protect it from foreign invaders and infection. Sustained inflammation can lead to cancer and heart diseases. Supplementing with red yeast rice may be helpful in reducing inflammation and promoting better health.

    A study conducted on 50 people with metabolic syndrome showed that after taking red yeast rice for 8 weeks the level of oxidative stress, a chronic cause of inflammation, was reduced.(10)

  4. Has Anti-Cancer Properties

    There is some evidence that suggests that red yeast rice may be helpful in reducing the growth and spread of cancer cells.

    A study found that when red yeast rice was given to mice with prostate cancer, there was a decrease in tumor volume compared with the control group.(11)

    More studies are needed to look over its potential anti-cancer property in humans.

Side Effects of Red Yeast Rice

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Despite the numerous benefits, red yeast rice has some adverse effects as well.

Gastrointestinal problems such as bloating, gas, and stomach pain are the most common side effects. It may also lead to muscle problems, liver toxicity, and allergic reactions.(12)

As the research is limited, it is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding females and infants.

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If any adverse symptoms are noted after consuming red yeast rice, a healthcare professional should be consulted.

Monacolin K present in red yeast rice is extracted to make statin drugs, used for lowering cholesterol. It should therefore not be taken by people who are already taking statins unless directed by a healthcare professional.

Red yeast rice may also interact with blood pressure medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungals, and antivirals. If taking these medications a doctor should be informed before starting red yeast rice.(1)

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Red yeast rice supports heart health and reduces cholesterol levels and also reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome. Due to the presence of monacolin K, a doctor should be consulted before starting it for any medical reason.

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