High cholesterol is becoming a more common problem among people, particularly those in developed countries with easy and free access to cheap, fast, fatty foods. High cholesterol is a very serious problem and has serious repercussions for an individual’s health, including increased risk of heart disease and even death. It is, therefore, extremely serious if you get diagnosed with high levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream, and it something that you will need to start addressing straight away. Your doctor may prescribe you with drugs and tell you to do plenty of exercise and to eat well, but where do you even start with it all? What types of foods are high in cholesterol? Which sorts of foods are good for you? Are there foods out there that can actually help you lower your cholesterol quicker?
Your doctor will not have time to create individual meal plans for every single one of their patients, so you will be left to your own devices when it comes to designing your diet. But where do you even start? If you do not know how to lower cholesterol, you are amongst the majority of people in the world: most people have little to no medical knowledge and therefore cannot design the perfect meal plans to help them reduce their cholesterol levels quickly and safely.
Luckily, however, there are foods out there that you can use every day that have actually been scientifically proven to help lower cholesterol in conjunction with a good diet and plenty of exercise. One of the most revolutionary but relatively unknown food stuffs that can actually lower cholesterol is red yeast rice.
What is red yeast rice?
Never heard of red yeast rice? You’re not the first! It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and cooking for hundreds of years, but it is relatively unknown in the Western market. Your doctor may well not have recommended to you simply because they have never heard of it: it is so new that it is taking the world by storm, and has had plenty of great research done on it, always conducted by very capable scientists, who have discovered and proven just how effective it can be in lowering your cholesterol quickly and safely.
Red yeast rice is actually derived from a fungus that grows on rice, hence the name. Although it doesn’t sound particularly appealing, it is a very powerful natural ingredient in all of the best supplements designed to help lower cholesterol. It contains within it certain compounds that actually slow down the production of cholesterol in the liver, hence actively reducing the amount of cholesterol in your body naturally and safely.
It still has not been conclusively proven why red yeast rice is so good at lowering cholesterol. It does contain a compound called monacolin K which has previously been proven to help reduce cholesterol, but the amount and speed of the reduction of LDL cholesterol in patients on whom red yeast rice supplements have been tested is greater than that which is usually seen in patients given monacolin K in isolation. In other words, there must be something else in the red yeast rice, that scientists are yet to isolate, that contributes to the reduction of cholesterol in the body so quickly and naturally.
How do you take red yeast rice?
Perhaps the best thing about red yeast rice is that you don’t have too cook anything. No slaving over a hot stove for hours to produce food that is healthy and tasteless. No worrying about whether the foods you are preparing are full of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cholesterol. No stressing out about having to prepare something different for you and for the rest of the family. There is absolutely no stress around red yeast rice. Instead, it comes already prepared as a pill that you can take easily as a dietary supplement. This makes it convenient to take, convenient (and subtle) to carry around with you wherever you go and very easy to use.
How does red yeast rice compare to other cholesterol lowering drugs?
If you are diagnosed with high cholesterol, your doctor may well prescribe you some specialist medication to help reduce the levels of cholesterol in your bloodstream and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. However, most, if not all, of these medications usually have quite nasty side effects. Statins, including Zocor, Lipitor and Crestor, to name just a few, are a well known cholesterol drug that doctors often prescribe, particularly if your cholesterol levels are very high. However, it is well known now that statins can cause muscle (also known as myalgia) pain in up to 20% of all patients who are prescribed them: that’s nearly 30 million people according to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. Apart from these side effects (which can be extremely painful and even debilitating), statins have been proven to work well, so if your doctor prescribes them for you, it is worth taking them.
The benefit of taking red yeast rice supplements alongside or instead of statins is that you do not get the side effects to the same degree or severity. There is less pain associated with taking red yeast rice and with the natural compounds that are found in this food stuff. And yet it still works really well: red yeast rice supplements have actually been proven to lower LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 20%. Since red yeast rice does not seem to have the same side effects as statins, or, at least, not to the same degree or severity, however, red yeast rice supplements are often a much better and preferred way for patients to lower their cholesterol.
If you have taken statins before and have found that you suffer badly from myalgia, it is worth just switching to a change in lifestyle (better food and more exercise, for instance) as well as the addition of red yeast rice supplements every day rather than taking something that causes you constant pain. There have been plenty of studies done that suggest that taking red yeast rice daily, exercising regularly and eating well can actually work as well as taking statins for high cholesterol.
What red yeast rice supplements should you choose?
Dietary supplements and their contents are not actually regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that sometimes you could be buying a supplement that does not actually contain enough of the main active ingredient (in this instance, red yeast rice). This will mean that you will not see the sort of results that you are hoping for as quickly as you wanted – or, perhaps, at all – and can be very dangerous, since you will not actually be managing your cholesterol levels at all. For this reason, it is a good idea to ask a qualified professional about the brand you are looking at buying. Consult your doctor or a pharmacist who can tell you about the other ingredients in the supplement you are thinking about buying. Check for yourself: are there other ingredients in the supplements? What are they? What do they do? How much of the main ingredient (i.e. red yeast rice) is there in the supplements? Is it a majority? If there isn’t a majority of red yeast rice in the supplement you are looking to buy, then you are looking at the wrong brand and will have to keep searching.
Unfortunately, sometimes, since these supplements often have other ingredients in them, they can end up actually being harmful. In 2008 an analysis was carried out on some red yeast products. The results were frightening: four out of the ten brands that were investigated were found to have a potentially toxic ingredient in them. One of these four was the store brand of a major pharmacy chain.
So remember to do your research when you are looking for red yeast rice supplements. Check firstly that the main, active ingredient constitutes the majority of the supplement. Secondly, check down the list of other ingredients and make sure you understand what each of them is, what they contribute to the supplement and whether they are considered healthy or toxic. It is always good to try to go for all natural ingredients, as these are less likely to pose a serious problem to your health or to be toxic. Do not just rely on recommendations from your friends or family members, as they may not have checked the ingredients of their supplements, and certainly do not just go for the cheapest brands or the ones that are on offer, because you may find out the hard way that they are cheap for awful reasons. If you bear all these things in mind, you will soon find the best brands.
When is red yeast rice unsuitable for you?
There are always, of course, exceptions to every rule. Although red yeast rice has been proven to really help lower cholesterol in the majority of patients who are suffering from high levels of LDL cholesterol in their bloodstream, it isn’t always for absolutely everyone.
Although the risk is lower, there is a chance that, because of the active ingredients in red yeast rice, some patients may experience some muscle pain just like those who are sensitive to statins. However, in studies, it seems as though 7% of all participants suffered from myalgia, rather than the 20% who suffer when taking statins. Obviously, this is a drastic improvement, but it does mean that red yeast rice may not be suitable for absolutely everyone.
There have also been studies and tests to suggest that people who have had a heart attack at some point in their lives or who have suffered from blocked arteries because of atherosclerosis should not actually try to replace their regular cholesterol lowering medicines and therapies in favor of red yeast rice. Statins, after all, have been proven to actually reduce the risk of suffering from a heart attack, so, for those who are more susceptible to them, it is probably preferable to take statins over red yeast rice supplements.
How strong is red yeast rice and red yeast rice supplements?
Depending on how high your cholesterol levels are, you might want to stop and think about how potent yeast rice supplements are. Studies have actually shown that red yeast rice tends to be quite a lot stronger than other supplements designed to lower cholesterol levels in the body. Unfortunately, as a result of the fact that the supplements market is not regulated well, it can be difficult to know how strong one brand is compared to another, so if you start by taking one brand then change, you could be in for a nasty shock.
Individual brands can have different amounts of the active ingredient – lovastatin – in them, as found by a particularly shocking investigation performed by ConsumerLab, a watchdog group for the supplement industry. In their study, when they tested the products of ten different brands of capsule, they found that each of the different brands contained varying different amounts of lovastatin, as well as other compounds, both that help reduce cholesterol and that are added in for other reasons. If a patient were to switch from a particularly low dose of lovastatin to a higher dose very quickly, it could cause serious side effects, particularly if the patient was taking other drugs, since the lovastatin could actually interact with these and affect them differently.
Be careful when selecting your supplement brand, therefore, and make sure you check how strong the dose is before you start taking them. You can usually check online, ask your doctor or a pharmacist when you go to purchase the red yeast rice supplements. They are there to help you and they want you to get better as much as you do, so they will give you the right information and help you find the right brand for you, depending on the severity of your high cholesterol and what other drugs you may be taking to lower it, or what other prescription drugs you are taking at the same time.
So, should you take red yeast rice supplements or not?
It may seem a little a little more daunting now, going out and looking for red yeast rice supplements to help you lower your cholesterol levels, especially since you can still get side effects, the supplements are not actually regulated and might not be right for everyone. However, if you suffer from high levels of cholesterol, you do need to check out the possibility of taking red yeast rice alongside a good diet and regular exercise to see if it could help lower your cholesterol even quicker and even better than any drugs that a doctor may have prescribed or whether it will work better than not taking any supplements at all. Although it will take a bit of research, it is definitely looking into red yeast supplements, since they really could mean the difference between drastically, quickly and safely reducing your cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease and not going anywhere quickly.
There are just a few things you need to be aware of when shopping for these supplements that have to be on the top of your mind:
- How serious is your high cholesterol? Do you need lots of different sorts of medications that the red yeast rice supplements could interact with? If so, perhaps consider talking to your doctor to see whether they would cause any adverse reactions.
- Do you suffer from myalgia when you take statins? If you do, it is definitely worth looking into red yeast rice supplements: even though they still have a risk of the side effect of muscle pain, it is drastically reduced, and your cholesterol levels are still be effectively treated.
- Be careful with picking your brand. Different brands consist of various different ingredients and the potency of the active ingredient can vary wildly from one supplement to another. Always remember to do your research before and during your search. Check out each and every ingredient in the red yeast rice supplements to check that there are not potentially toxic compounds or ingredients in there, or anything that might interfere with other medicines that you are taking. Also don’t skip between different brands just in case you are taking a low-dosage supplement and start taking one with a higher dosage, as this could lead to extremely serious side effects. As long as you are careful and do your research, you should be able to avoid all potential problems with no issue.
Red yeast rice is now famous all over the world for being an alternative to statins, and it is rightly celebrated. For a majority of people it offers respite from muscle pain induced by statins and it is a great way to lower your cholesterol quicker than simply changing your diet or your exercise regime.