Sunday, June 21, 2009


Another food product, this time red yeast, has been shown to lower LDL-Cholesterol. The study, by a group of workers from Philadelphia, was published in the June 16th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, by Dr David Becker and colleagues. They studied the use of red yeast, to lower LDL-C in patients who were statin intolerant. They studied 62 patients who had side effects from Statins. These patients had raised serum total and LDL-Cholesterol. 31 patients received placebo and 31 patients received red yeast rice at 1,800mg twice daily. After 12 weeks and 24 weeks their lipids were measured.
After 12 and 24 weeks of treatment with red yeast, the total cholesterol, triglycerides, and particularly LDL-cholesterol were significantly lowered, when compared to the placebo arm. There was almost no effect on HDL-cholesterol. Of course there was no significant side effects.
We have known for a longtime that red yeast rice contains lovastatin ( remember that lovastatin was discovered by the Japanese from a yeast ). I first learn if this from one of my patient years ago, when I started him on pravastatin. He brought to my clinic one day, a bottle of "Hypochol " which is the generic name for red yeast. He said that it is available in Singapore ( at that time ) and it was cheap, much cheaper than statins.
This study brings up two important points. I wonder why the authors ( these are Americans ) did not choose to use Ezetimide, as I do, when I am faced with a statin intolerant patient. The other point I noted was that it would appear that natural, yeast form of lovastatin does not have myalgia as opposed to manufactured lovastatin. Is it the statins or the other added ingredients?
Whatever it is, I am glad to note there there is evidence coming out that some herbs, in this case red yeast rice, can lower LDL-cholesterol. It is also interesting to note that American doctors are studying herbal compounds.
Of course, with more and more of these studies ( and I hope that there will be more ), soon it will be difficult to differentiate between "nutriceuticals " and " herbal medicine". Looks like in a broader aspect, there may be some basis for traditional complementary medicine. But before the TCM ( Traditional and Complementary Medicine ) people get too carried away, we certainly hope that they will also follow the path of evidence base medicine. This is our humble plea.

1 comment:

MBI said...

"I wonder why the authors ( these are Americans ) did not choose to use Ezetimide, as I do, when I am faced with a statin intolerant patient". Ezetimide (sic)reduces LDL-C but studies indicate it does not prevent atherosclerosis, so it may not be a good alternative.

More importantly after taking ezemtibe for sometime you will test positive (false positive?)CA19-9 for pancreatic cancer. This is not from studies but personal experience.