An Ancient Chinese Secret — Red Yeast Rice

april-_4-hh.jpgThe yeast responsible for giving Peking Duck its red color contains powerful antioxidants and a potent cholesterol-lowering agent.

Ever since the Chinese Tang dynasty in 800 C.E. red yeast rice has been used for medicinal purposes, as natural food coloring and as a spice in cuisine. The ancient Chinese pharmacopoeia (a compendium of pharmacologically active substances) from the Ming Dynasty gave detailed descriptions on the usefulness of red yeast rice for heart health and blood circulation, and to treat indigestion.

Red yeast rice is made by fermenting monascus purpureus, a deep-red colored yeast, with white rice for several days. The resulting rice grains become bright red throughout and a deep purple-red on the surface, with a distinct, characteristic flavor.

The addition of the yeast to rice adds natural monacolins. These monacolins are nearly identical to lovastatin (the active ingredient in cholesterol-lowering drugs), which inhibits an enzyme that is necessary for the production of cholesterol your liver. It’s believed that eight different monacolins produced by the yeast work in synergy with certain fatty-acids and antioxidants in the yeast, to benefit heart health.

The yeast-saturated rice grains can be eaten as cooked rice, used as a wet paste for coloring and flavoring sauces or dried into a powder for medicinal uses. Red yeast rice is a natural product that has been thoroughly researched, tested and proven to lower LDL cholesterol.

In 2006, a meta-analysis of 93 clinical tails conducted mostly by Chinese scientists, concluded that red yeast rice lowered total cholesterol by up to 30%, triglycerides by 15-25% and reduced LDL cholesterol by 10-20%. In the United States, a UCLA School of Medicine study examining red yeast rice for people with elevated cholesterol concluded that after twelve weeks of consuming red yeast concentrate daily, total cholesterol, LDL and triglyceride levels were significantly reduced in those people taking red yeast rice supplement, versus a placebo.

It is so effective at lowering cholesterol that there is an ongoing debate whether the FDA should classify red yeast rice as a dietary supplement or regulate it like a drug. It appears to be effective, but since the fermentation process also produces small quantities of a mildly toxic by-product, those who are pregnant or nursing or anyone who develops muscle pain, should not consume red yeast rice.

Is red yeast rice a food, a potent natural drug, or a dietary supplement? The debate goes on. What is no longer questioned is whether red yeast rice is beneficial to those with high cholesterol. This natural substance may be an excellent way for you to reduce cardiovascular risks and enhance your heart health.

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