Red yeast rice (Monascus purpureus)

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Red yeast rice (RYR) is made from yeast (Monascuspurpureus) grown on rice. It is a dietary staple in some Asian countries. Processed red yeast rice supplements include red yeast rice extract (RYRE), which is any extract of red yeast rice, and Xuezhikang, an alcohol extract of red yeast rice.
RYR contains several compounds known as monacolins, which block the production of cholesterol. One of these, monacolin K, has the same structure as the drugs lovastatin and mevinolin. Studies suggest that RYR use may lead to a 10-33% reduction in low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol. This is a moderate effect, compared to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved "statin" drugs. Information on the long-term safety of RYR is limited at this time.
RYR extract (RYRE) has been sold in over-the-counter supplements to lower cholesterol, in the form of products such as Cholestin® (Pharmanex, Inc.). However, the formula has been changed. Cholestin® contains many compounds in addition to monacolin K, including other monacolins, starch, fiber, protein, and fatty acids. Research suggests that this product may treat high cholesterol and triglycerides in both humans and animals. Some studies report that RYR use may increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good") cholesterol. However, information on the effects of monacolin K alone is lacking.
There has been some controversy between Pharmanex, Inc., the FDA, and statin manufacturers as to whether Cholestin® should be considered a drug or a dietary supplement. The U.S. District Court in Utah ruling in March 2001 states that RYRE is an unapproved drug. Thus, the RYRE known as Cholestin® is no longer available in the United States. Other products containing RYRE alone or in combination products may still be commercially available in the United States, primarily through Internet retailers.
Besides RYR's use for high cholesterol, pigments made by Monascus species have been used to color food in Asian cooking. Future uses of RYR may include decreasing heart disease risk and improving the health of people with diabetes.

Related Terms

3Alpha-hydroxy-3,5-dihydromonacolin L, alkaloids, angkak, anka, ankaflavin, arroz de levadura roja (Spanish), Asian traditional fermentation foodstuff, astaxanthin, beni-koju, ben-koji, Chinese red yeast rice, Cholestin®, citrinin, compactin, CRYR, dehydromonacolin K, dihydromonacolin L, DSM1379, DSM1603, ergosterol, flavonoids, GABA, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glycosides, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, hon-chi, hong qu, hongqu, hung-chu, hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase, KCCM11832, koji, linoleic acid, lovastatin, M9011, mevinolin, monacolin, monacolin hyroxyacid, monacolin J, monacolin K, monacolin K (hydroxyl acid form), monacolin L, monacolin M, monacolin X, Monascaceae (yeast family), monascopyridine A, monascopyridine B, monascopyridine C, monascopyridine D, monascorubramine, monascorubrin, Monascus, Monascusanka, Monascus purpureus, Monascus purpureus fermentate, Monascus purpureus HM105, Monascus purpureus NTU568, Monascus purpureus Went rice, Monascusruber, monascorubramine, oleic acid, orange anka pigment, palmitoleic acid, Phaffia rhodozyma, phenols, protein, red fermented rice, red koji, red leaven, red mould rice, red rice, red rice yeast, red yeast, red yeast rice extract, rice, RICE products, rubropunctamine, rubropunctatin, RYR, RYRE, saponins, statins, stearic acid, tannins, Xue Zhi Kang, Xuezhikang, yellow anka pigment, Zhi tai, Zhitai.
Selected brand names: Cholestene® (red yeast rice), Cholestin® (containing red yeast rice; no longer available in the United States and Canada), Cholesto-Rite® (red yeast rice, gugulipid, Aspalathus linearis), Health Direct's Red Yeast Rice Vcaps (red yeast rice), Lipolysar, Only Naturals' Red Yeast Rice Plus, Source Naturals' Red Yeast Rice capsules.
Note: Monacolin K, a compound found in red yeast rice, has the same structure as the drugs lovastatin and mevinolin. This bottom line covers Monascuspurpureus, excluding details about related species.

evidence table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
 
High cholesterol (Grade: A)
Monacolins, compounds found in red yeast rice extract (RYRE), have been found to have health benefits since the early 1980s. In particular, monacolin K has been marketed as lovastatin and mevinolin. However, due to the large number of compounds that may lower cholesterol other than monacolin K, the cholesterol-lowering mechanism is still unclear. It has been suggested that RYR may block absorption of cholesterol, promote the clearance of cholesterol, or exert antioxidant effects. Overall, results suggest that red yeast rice (RYR) products may lower levels of total and LDL cholesterol in people with high cholesterol. Some studies also suggest increases in HDL cholesterol. More information on long-term safety and effectiveness is needed.
Coronary heart disease (Grade: C)
Human studies suggest that RYR use may improve blood flow through widened vessels and reduced inflammation. However, further research is needed in order to determine the effect of RYR on heart disease symptoms and mortality.
Diabetes (Grade: C)
Although it has not been well studied in humans, RYR has been found to reduce blood sugar and increase insulin in animal research. Early human studies also suggest that RYR may have benefits in diabetes. Further research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.
Fatty liver (Grade: C)
Early evidence suggests that RYR may benefit liver health in people who have diabetes. However, more studies are needed before conclusions can be made.