Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is red yeast rice good for lowering cholesterol?

Ask the doctor

Is red yeast rice good for lowering cholesterol?

Q. I saw a newspaper column that said red yeast rice is a safer, more effective way to treat high cholesterol than statin drugs. Is that true?

A. Is red yeast rice safer than statins? Probably not. More effective? Almost certainly not. Would I recommend it or take it myself? Absolutely not.

Red yeast rice is made by letting a yeast called Monascus purpureus grow on moist white rice. The fermented mash is dried or cooked, and sold as a paste, dried grains, a powder, or an extract. You may have encountered it as the flavoring that gives Peking duck its characteristic red color.

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