Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Can I take red yeast rice instead of a statin to lower my cholesterol?

Q. What is the story on using red yeast rice to lower cholesterol? You have warned readers against using it in the past, but I heard about a new study that shows it works. Are you ready to admit you are wrong on this one?

A. Red yeast rice has been touted for years as a "natural" way to lower cholesterol. People use it for a variety of reasons. Some have trouble taking a statin. Some believe that natural means safer. Others look with suspicion on anything made by a pharmaceutical company.

Does red yeast rice lower cholesterol? Yes. Is it as good as one of the widely used statins? No. And it's harder to know what you are getting.

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