Dr. Christine Hoffman's patients rave about her. After spending some time with her on several occasions, I can see why. She is a primary care family physician with Family Practice Partners. It is easy to see that Dr. Hoffman loves what she does. This shows in her commitment to patients and her caring attitude. It also shows in her interest in continuing to learn about innovative treatments that might be beneficial to her patients.
She asked me a week or so ago about whether I had ever recommended red yeast rice for patients that are trying to lower cholesterol. She related several cases that had experienced significant drops in cholesterol after using red yeast rice. Amazingly, she was able to confirm through blood tests that one patient had dropped her level by 100 points by using red yeast rice, modifying her diet, and a modest exercise program. Are you interested yet?
It turns out that Dr. Hoffman is ahead of the curve. Just in the past week I have received several positive medical news stories about the use of red yeast rice to improve cholesterol levels. It turns out that red yeast rice (RYR) can be so effective that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken steps to have the product be classified as a new drug, even though it is a naturally occurring substance that has been used for centuries in China. This is because the naturally occurring compounds in RYR compete with some drugs marketed for cholesterol.
So, just what is red yeast rice and how can it help your cholesterol? The rice is not the secret ingredient. Neither is the yeast. It is the consequences of the interaction of these two ingredients that produces the effective compounds. When red yeast is grown in rice, compounds are formed that are known to naturally reduce cholesterol. The extract of this process is what is marketed as "red yeast rice". The extract has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine for relief of common gastric problems such as indigestion and diarrhea. It is also used as a food preservative and food colorant. Peking duck, for example, gets its red hue from red yeast rice extract.
What happens when you consume RYR extract? Your low density lipoproteins (LDL, bad cholesterol) and triglycerides will likely drop while the high density lipoproteins (HDL, good cholesterol) may increase. This is exactly the effect you would like to see. Keep in mind this is thought to be most beneficial along with diet modification and adding moderate exercise.
There is (of course) some controversy surrounding the use of RYR extract. Keep in mind that the makers of pharmaceutical-lowering drugs make BILLIONS of dollars each year from their products. They are not about to stand idly by and watch a nutritional supplement cut into their lucrative market. These manufacturers are fighting back. They have pressured the FDA to rein in the increasing popularity of RYR extract.
Recently the FDA ruled that the RYR sold in the United States must reduce the amount of the effective ingredient to trace levels. In other words, the scientific community successfully found a very positive result from a naturally occurring, relatively inexpensive product that competes with a hugely profitable segment of the pharmaceutical industry, and their response is to attempt to disable it. Does that sound like protecting the public or protecting the financial interests of the drug companies? Does RYR extract still work? It appears to be effective even after being modified to satisfy the FDA and Big Pharma. It is available in health food stores and some pharmacies.
Keep in mind that the same FDA announced two weeks ago that Cheerios, the popular cereal that has been around for decades, must now choose to either submit application to be approved as a drug, or quit using the factual statement on their packaging that oat bran food such as Cheerios can help lower cholesterol.
Next week, some helpful information about dietary steps you can take to improve your cholesterol balance.