Red yeast rice

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Overview

Red yeast rice is the product of yeast (Monascus purpureus) grown on white rice. The powdered yeast-rice mixture is a dietary staple in Asia and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Red yeast rice is also available as an oral supplement.

Red yeast rice might contain compounds that appear to lower cholesterol levels. One of the compounds is monacolin K, the same ingredient that is in the prescription cholesterol-lowering drug lovastatin (Altoprev).

As an oral supplement, people take red yeast rice for high cholesterol and heart disease.

Evidence

Research on red yeast rice use for specific conditions shows:

  • High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia). Research shows that red yeast rice containing considerable amounts of monacolin K can lower your total blood cholesterol level, your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol level and your triglyceride level.

Our take

Yellow light: Caution

Caution

Red yeast rice is capable of lowering blood cholesterol levels and total blood cholesterol levels. While the supplement is generally considered safe, it might carry the same potential side effects as statin cholesterol drugs.

Red yeast rice might cost less than a statin. However, with a supplement, there's less assurance regarding quality and how much active ingredient is actually in the product. Some red yeast products might contain only small amounts of monacolin K and potentially have little effect on cholesterol levels.

Oct. 14, 2017