Red Yeast Rice- Mother Nature’s Statin

Dear Pharmacist,

My cholesterol is high, and my doctor is giving me 3 months before putting me on a statin, which I don’t want to do. Can you offer a natural solution?

--C.H., Gainesville, Florida

Answer: You can reduce your cholesterol with diet and exercise alone, did you know that? Most assume they need a pill because that’s what the doctor ordered, but a gym is cheaper. When you’re not pumping iron, blend baby blend. Juicing fruits and vegetables will reduce cholesterol, detoxify the liver and suppress pain-causing chemicals. Try combining fresh carrots, pineapple, celery, parsley, ginger and green apples.

There are many dietary supplements to help you reduce cholesterol and I’ll name them shortly. Just promise me you won’t lower it so much that you feel sick, that seems to be an American trend. You need cholesterol, it’s the backbone molecule of some crucial hormones that make us happy and healthy, namely estrogen, testosterone and DHEA.

Let’s focus on red yeast rice, or RYR to lower cholesterol. This is a dietary supplement and a product of yeast (Monascus purpureus). Basically, it’s a fungus that grows on rice, but it’s a staple in Asian diets. It contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol such as “mevinolin” or “monacolin K” (same thing, two different names). This compound reduces cholesterol production. Years ago, one drug company saw green when they learned about red yeast rice and created the very first billion-dollar blockbuster statin called “Mevacor” sold generically as “lovastatin.” Today, we have other sister drugs in the statin class such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor), just to name a few.

Although RYR is a weaker statin than its pharmaceutical cousins, it works well if you get a brand that authentically contains it.

A 2009 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that RYR and fish oils lowered cholesterol just as well as Zocor over a 12-week period. For those of you who wish to take RYR, the dosage is about 2,400 mg total per day plus 100 mg CoQ10 or Ubiquinol to restore what the ‘drug mugger’ steals.

Get your doctor’s approval first, and do not combine RYR with a prescribed statin.Other amazing ways to keep cholesterol down (other than reducing cheeseburger intake) is to supplement with essential fatty acids (like Nordic Naturals or Essential Living), policosanol by NOW Foods or GNC, plant sterols (CholestOff by Nature Made), Kyolic’s Aged Garlic, Guggulow by Doctor’s Best (a pure source of guggul) and/or niacin (there are hundreds of makers for this one). Emerging studies prove that probiotics are helpful to reducing cholesterol.

Did You Know?

Consume apples every day can lower LDL cholesterol by 23 percent over 6 months.

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About the author


I'm a graduate of the University of Florida and has been a licensed pharmacist for nearly 20 years.  People call me “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist” because I've spent the last 10 years writing a syndicated column on health which reaches millions of people each week.

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Anonymous's picture

Larry McDaniel

The FDA, some years back, ruled that all producers of Red Yeast Rice had to reduce the statin content due to a pharmaceutical company claiming a patent on their statin drugs.

Red Yeast Rice now has only about 10% of the statin that it originally had before the FDA "protected" the citizens of this country so well.


Larry McDaniel

Anonymous's picture

Steven Wood

@ reducing cheeseburger intake; Dietary intake of cholesterol has no effect at all on serum cholesterol which is made and regulated by the liver. Do not take your cholesterol level too low or you will be at risk of heart attack or stroke. My personal opinion is to not worry about my cholesterol level unless it is below 200 or over 300. When it comes to statin drugs that can cause muscle damage (and other nasty side effects), just say no. Thank you Suzy for the nice article and the natural alternatives to statin drugs.

Anonymous's picture

Hanif, KL Malaysia

My cholesterol has been boderline high, for ever I can remember.
(6-7 mmol/L). i have been advised to take statins but refused on the grounds that my body determines what levels are suitable for me. What is worrying however is that I cannot shake off fat accumulations around my mid-section, even with cautious (not starvation) diet and moderate exercise, At my age I cannot opt for heavy workouts.

Anonymous's picture


Cholesterol is not dangerous unless it becomes oxidized, so getting plenty of antioxidants dietarily and/or supplementally will help keep it from "sticking" to blood vessel walls. Vitamin C is especially important in this regard.

High LDL cholesterol is indicative of cell membranes becoming too fluid. The body uses cholesterol to stabilize the fluidity of the cell membranes and uses LDL's to deliver it. Sugar, alcohol, and polyunsaturated cooking oils are the biggest culprits for de-stabilizing cell membranes, so reducing those in your diet will help deal with the cause of increased cholesterol production.

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