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NewsBites January 2011 Issue

Red Yeast Rice: Buyer Beware

Laboratory tests have revealed “strik- ing variability” in the active ingredi- ents in Chinese red yeast rice, a supple- ment touted as an alternative to statin drugs for improving cholesterol. Among 12 popular brands, levels of monacolin, which is related to the prescription cho- lesterol medication lovastatin, ranged from 0.31 mg to 11.15 mg per capsule. The type of monacolin (“K”) that’s most similar to lovastatin varied from 0.10 mg to 10.09 mg per pill. Four samples also contained citrinin, which can dam- age the kidneys. Researchers noted that, as a dietary supplement rather than a drug, red yeast rice is largely unregulated and lacks the quality controls of pre- scription medications. Therefore, “physi- cians should be cautious in recommend- ing red yeast rice to their patients.” Long used in China, red yeast rice has recently soared in sales in the US, up 80% from 2005 to 2008. Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 25, 2010; abstract at< abstract/170/19/1722>

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