Many prominent cardiologists are questioning the benefits of lowering cholesterol. But controlling cholesterol is still critically important. There is controversy: is it more important to watch HDL, LDL, particle size of the cholesterol molecules, fractions of cholesterol, triglycerides, or perhaps inflammation. We think controlling all of these is important. Here are some things to consider if you want to decide whether to take your statin or take red rice yeast:
Statins effectively lower cholesterol, lower markers of blood inflammation, and lower other lipid levels and are an important component of cardiovascular and diabetes disease management.
Red rice yeast has been shown to lower total cholesterol and could be an alternative to a statin.
The biologic component of the red rice yeast or monacolin K is the same component of the which was used to make the first formula of lovastatin one of the most popular cholesterol lowering medicines.
Both statins and the red rice yeast have the same risks of muscle injury that leads to the muscle cramping and potentially dangerous degeneration or rhabdomyolysis, and potential hepatotoxicity. Rarely kidney toxicity has been reported with both.
Statins are synthesized in the lab, where as the red rice yeast may have been exposed to pesticides and insecticides.
Blood monitoring of your blood fats, kidneys, and liver are important with both statins or red rice yeast. Occasionally some of the red rice yeast products have citrinin which can be severely kidney toxic. . We advocate the same medical monitoring for patients using red rice yeast or statins. If you have had muscle cramps on either red rice yeast or a statin we advocate seeing your health care provider
Do not continue products that aren’t changing your levels for the better. In 2007 and 2013 the FDA issued warnings regarding using red rice yeast products, but to date there may have been improvements in some of the product lines. However it is interesting to note that a study of the ability of red rice yeast to lower cholesterol at the University of Kansas failed to show consistent results in lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and the FDA refused to approve red rice yeast based on their data.
The manufacturers of red rice yeast do not make available information on effectiveness of lowering cholesterol, or on the side effects; nor is there information on the likelihood that someone who had muscle cramps on a statin will not have muscle cramps on red rice yeast. Consider genetic testing for your ability to process your statin. Consider that muscle soreness only recurs in 10-70% of patients reintroduced to a statin.
Don’t forget diet and lifestyle contribute strongly to heart health, and just a medication will not solve all risk related to lipid blood levels.