The recent study questioning the efficacy of two popular prescription drugs in reducing disease-causing cholesterol has triggered a strong response by their makers, Schering-Plough Corp and Merck & Co. Full-page ads in Sundays New York Times from the companies attest to the effectiveness of both Zetia and Vytorin.
While big pharma scrambles, adherents of natural remedies are talking about a new-old dietary supplement that even the Mayo Clinic says has impressive evidence of effectiveness. Its something called red yeast rice. And in China its been used for its benefits to the circulatory system since 800 A.D.
Red yeast rice is named for a red or purple substance released by a fungus grown on fermented rice. It is marketed as a more natural and less expensive alternative to statin drugs such as Lipitor. Available in capsules in health food stores and over the Internet, red yeast rice actually creates the same monacolin-K, or lovastatin, that is the main ingredient in the generic version of the prescription drug Mevacor.
According to the Mayo Clinics website, red yeast rice has the benefit of strong scientific evidence, stating that ..since the 1970s, human studies have reported that red yeast rice lowers blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein/LDL ("bad cholesterol"), and triglyceride levels.
Still, three red yeast rice supplements sold over the counter were ordered off the market recently by the FDA: Red yeast rice and red yeast rice/Policosanol Complex sold by Swanson Health Products Inc. and manufactured by Nature's Value Inc. and Kabco Inc. as well as Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics. The stated reason for the FDAs action is concern that the statin content in the supplements were approaching those in the prescription drugs. Some suspect that Big Pharma, concerned with the profitability of its key prescription statin drugs, encouraged the FDA to make the move against inexpensive red yeast rice, the more natural, but less regulated, choice.
Meanwhile, the debate rages on in the fast-growing alternative medicine community, and other versions of red yeast rice capsules are readily available online and in-store.
Note: The information in this article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified health-care provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.