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Red yeast rice has been used as food and medicine for centuries in China and Japan. Even today, it’s still a dietary staple in China, Japan, and Asian communities in the United States. Red yeast rice is known for its ability to lower cholesterol, improve digestion and blood circulation. It also acts as a food preservative and colorant, spice, and ingredient in rice wine.

What Is Red Yeast Rice?

Red yeast rice is the product derived from fermenting rice using a specific species of mold, Monascus ruber or Monascus purpureus. The mold turns the rice dark red and produces the compound monacolin K, which is the same active ingredient found in prescription drugs known as statins, used for high cholesterol.

Red yeast rice is sold as a health and food supplement across the globe. It’s a cost-effective alternative to the pricey medication to support heart health and reduce cholesterol levels.

Red Yeast Rice for Weight Loss

While many people shy away from consuming this beneficial supplement, it doesn’t pose a threat to human health if taken in moderation.

Several studies show that red yeast rice can help control your weight. We know that obesity is one of the risk factors for getting heart disease. Red yeast rice offers the best natural way to control your cholesterol levels.

However, more studies need to be carried out before we can say with 100 percent surety that it can help you fight weight loss. But results look good, and it would appear that consuming red yeast rice may reduce obesity.

Red yeast rice is said to stimulate your metabolism and lower your cholesterol. As you may be aware, excessive cholesterol can increase your risk of obesity, as it is associated with poor lifestyle and diet choices.

Other health benefits of red yeast rice include:

Lower Levels of Cholesterol

Red yeast rice is effective for lowering cholesterol levels, as well as other fats (lipids) in the blood. Research shows that consuming red yeast rice for six months can lower total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglycerides.

After eating, LDL cholesterol in the food gathers with other substances in your blood vessels. If the cholesterol level is too high, it can lead to stroke or heart attack. The liver also produces LDL, and the red yeast rice is said to reduce its production in the liver.

Supports Kidney Function

High cholesterol and triglycerides in the body can cause serious damage to the kidneys if left untreated. Several studies show that taking red yeast rice supplements can protect the kidney from damage.

Patients are encouraged to take the supplement under medical supervision to check for side effects. The studies done on rats showed that red yeast rice protected kidneys from injury. However, more research needs to be carried out to determine their long-term effects on kidney health.

Addresses Metabolic Syndrome and Blood Sugar

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that increase the risk of chronic conditions, like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. High blood pressure, excess body fat, and increased blood sugar are some of the risk factors of metabolic syndrome.

Several studies show that red yeast rice can help reduce some of these risk factors and may act as a natural treatment to help prevent them. It contributes to lower lipid (fat) levels in the blood, which, in turn, lowers blood sugar levels.

Additionally, low cholesterol levels reduce the risk of developing dangerous blood clots that can lead to strokes and heart attacks. An 8-week study on the effects of red yeast rice on mice fed a high-fat diet discovered that it controlled the cholesterol levels in the body and body weight.

May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural immune response designed to protect your body against foreign invaders and acute infections. If undetected or left untreated, inflammation can lead to chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Research shows that supplementing with red yeast rice may help reduce inflammation and promote good health in the long run.

Anticancer Properties

While current research is limited to animal and test-tube studies, the results suggest that red yeast rice may help protect your body from certain types of cancers. One study showed that giving mice with prostate cancer red yeast rice powder significantly reduced the tumor volume compared with another group.

Researchers discovered a pair of compounds – rubropunctatin and monacolin L – which or of interest in cancer treatment. Rubropunctatin may block telomerase, an enzyme that allows cancers to metastasize and relocate to different parts of the body. Monacolin L was seen to increase apoptosis rate, or cell death, in the tumor.

More research is still required to evaluate the effects of red yeast rice on cancer in humans.

Side Effects of Red Yeast Rice

Although red yeast rice is a dietary supplement that potentially controls high cholesterol levels, it has several downsides. While rare, these side effects need to be considered before you start taking the supplements.

The most common ones include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Gas
  • Heartburn

Additionally, pregnant women, those planning to get pregnant, and breastfeeding women should avoid taking red yeast rice supplements. Some studies show that it may contain citrinin, a contaminant that can cause kidney failure.

Red yeast rice may also interact with other drugs. Patients who are taking the following medications should avoid consuming it:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Medication to treat HIV infections
  • Other cholesterol drugs

Patients are also discouraged from drinking grapefruit juice, which might increase the risk of the supplement’s harmful side effects.

All images by Shutterstock

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