Subscribe to our Newsletter:
Healthy Diet Plans >>  Dietary Supplements >>  Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice

Red yeast rice is a product of yeast grown on rice. It is also known as red fermented rice and is bright reddish purple in colour. Red yeast rice is commonly sold in Asian markets in varying forms such as pasteurized aggregates, whole grains or ground powder. The yeast ‘Monascus Purpureus’ is cultivated on polished rice to produce red yeast rice. China is the largest producer of red yeast rice and this rice was earlier used as red food coloring before the discovery of chemical food colors.
Red yeast rice is known to treat problems related to cholesterol, gastric problems, aid digestion and improves blood circulation.

Red yeast rice contains several compounds known as Monacolins which are known to cause cholesterol reduction. Red yeast rice when produced using the 'Went' strain of Monascus purpureus contains significant quanitites of natural statin which reduces blood levels of cholesterol, triglyceride levels and LDL (Low Density LipoProtein). There is continious research and development to produce red yeast rice with significant quanitites of naturally occuring statin. Minimal scientific evidence also exists with regard to the efficacy of the red yeast rice as a cure for diabetes and cornonary heart diseases. Red yeast rice is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a dietary supplement while an ongoing legal debate may consider the red yeast rice to be reclassified as a prescription drug.

Red yeast rice extracts are found in varying forms such as tablets and capsules. Such tablets and capsules can purchased from local stores or from online retailers. The suggested intake of red yeast rice tablets or capsules is 600mg twice or four times a day. There are various side effects that must be considered before considering the intake of this supplement. Some of the commonly known side effects are: headache, indigestion, heartburn, muscle pain, joint pain , liver inflammation , dizziness etc.

It is advisable to consider intake of such supplements after consultation with a medical practitioner. Some causes fror concern are:
  1. Citrinin found in red yeast rice is a toxic by-product due to fermentation
  2. Red yeast rice must not be consumed by pregnant or breast feeding mothers
  3. Consuming red yeast rice runs the risk of impairing liver functions and should be therefore avoided by those already suffering from liver ailments.
  4. Intake of red yest rice must be avoided by those suffering from infections, kidney disease and organ transplant.

Red yeast rice is a type of rice that is primarily found in China with Japan being the other country where this type of rice is found. It refers to rice that is prepared using a specific kind of yeast known as Monascus Purpureus which is used to ferment the rice. This substance gives the distinctive red color to red yeast rice. Red yeast may also be used for other dishes unique to Chinese and Japanese cuisine. 

As a health food item, red yeast rice is known for its positive effect on cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a substance that may accumulate in the blood of an individual. There are different types of cholesterol which can be broadly classified into good and bad cholesterol. The body requires some amount of good cholesterol for the performance of various body functions. However, bad cholesterol is associated with a number of different conditions, specifically conditions that are related to the heart and blood circulatory system. A reduction of this type of cholesterol will lead to improved health. Therefore, any substance that can reduce cholesterol is considered to be good for health. Red yeast rice also has an effect on the level of triglycerides. Triglycerides are also considered to be a risk factor for the development of cardiac conditions. 

The performance of red yeast rice as a cholesterol reducing agent has led to calls for it to be classified as a medical drug rather than as a food supplement. Currently, the classification of red yeast rice supplement means that it can be consumed freely by any individual who chooses to do so. Red yeast rice is similar in its effects on the body when compared to statin drugs. These drugs are prescribed for people with cholesterol related problems. 

There are some red yeast rice side effects that an individual should be aware of before consuming this food. This is particularly applicable in cases where an individual wishes to consume large quantities of red yeast rice. Common red yeast rice side effects include indigestion, gas, heartburn, dizziness and headaches. Less common red yeast rice side effects may be as serious as liver inflammation and nerve damage. In general it can be assumed that these more serious red yeast rice side effects affect those who consume large quantities of red yeast rice on a daily basis as a part of their diet. This is therefore applicable to individuals from China and Japan and also those who are of Chinese and Japanese descent as these are the groups most likely to be consuming large, unregulated quantities of red yeast rice. 

Muscle pain, joint pain and general weakness may also be listed as red yeast rice side effects. These are relatively rare compared to other red yeast rice side effects. When a patient has these problems, it is important to seek medical help as soon as possible, so as to ensure that there is no further damage to the body, specifically to the kidneys which may be damaged if there is muscle damage. 

Submitted on June 30, 2011