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Researchers from the University of Tromso in Norway, Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine and Beijing University of Chinese Medicine conducted a meta-analysis (review of previously conducted research) of 93 randomized trials that tested the effectiveness of three different RYR preparations -- Cholestin, Xuezhikang and Zhibituo -- on blood cholesterol levels.
Cholestin is a brand name RYR supplement produced by United States-based Pharmanex, while Xuezhikang is produced by mixing rice and red yeast with alcohol, then processing it to remove the majority of the rice gluten.
The researchers assessed the studies' results for effectiveness in treating hyperlipidemia, a condition in which patients have abnormally high concentrations of lipids (fats) in the blood. They found that all three RYR preparations -- Cholestin, Xuezhikang and Zhibituo -- significantly reduced total blood cholesterol levels in patients, as well as triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels, while boosting levels of "healthy" HDL cholesterol, compared to placebo. Of the three preparations, Xuezhikang and Zhibituo were found to be the most effective, with little difference between the two.
The RYR preparations were also found to be as effective at lowering lipid cholesterol levels as statin drugs, including pravastatin (brand name Pravachol), simvastatin (Zocor), lovastatin (Mevacor), atorvastatin (Lipitor) and fluvastatin (Lescol). However, unlike prescription statins -- which can cause adverse effects such as reduced liver function, muscle damage, depression, pain and sexual dysfunction -- the only side effects of the RYR preparations were dizziness and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Red yeast rice has been used for over 1,000 years in China to improve circulation and treat indigestion and diarrhea. It is made from rice fermented by a red yeast known as Monascus purpureus and is frequently used as a food preservative and food color, as well as a spice and a component of rice wine.
According to natural health advocate Mike Adams, author of "The Five Habits of Health Transformation," red yeast rice contains a wide variety of supportive compounds that aren't found in the isolated chemical sold as a drug, and the scientific community believes multiple compounds work better in concert than isolated chemicals.
"Pharmaceutical companies actually synthesized statin drugs by discovering and altering a molecule found in red yeast rice," Adams said. "But red yeast rice does not cause the dangerous side effects of statin drugs, nor does it require a high-priced prescription. It's safer, more natural and works better."