Question: I take a statin to control my cholesterol, but have been reading about red rice yeast as a natural alternative to prescription medications. What are the pros and cons of taking this supplement and ditching my script? Aren't the active ingredients the same?
Dr. Hibberd's answer:
I wouldn't ditch my statin for red rice yeast. The strong evidence we have for statin treatment benefits is greater than the data I have seen on red rice yeast. Statins are pharmaceutically regulated agents cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness.
The Chinese variety of red rice yeast does indeed have usually small varied mounts of lovastatin in it (the active ingredient in the statin Mevacor). But as with many agents that have biologic sources, the amounts in red rice yeast products are unregulated and unknown. The FDA has ruled against red rice yeast products that contain more than trace amounts of cholesterol lowering substances, and products sold in China are not available in the U.S. In other words, red rice yeast is unregulated. I do not use it.
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