A German study released last month (July 2016) shows that interest in the health attributes of rice is growing, especially the type fermented with a fungus called Monascus purpureus. This rice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, but is gaining interest due to the LDL-cholesterol-lowering effects of its compound called monacolin K. “Red yeast rice” is a traditional food in many Asian countries, used to promote digestion and blood circulation since the Ming Dynasty. It is made by fermenting wholegrain white rice with Monascus purpureus, and the red colour, flavours and components such as monacolins occur due to the fermentation. 

The cholesterol-lowering effects of red yeast rice in higher-dose extract supplements and prescription drugs are already well known. But this research team wanted to find out if low doses may likewise reduce cholesterol and other blood fats. They also wanted to test the homocysteine-lowering effect of folic acid.
Studying 142 people with high cholesterol (not on statin drugs), researchers gave some participants red yeast rice extract containing 3 mg monacolin K along with 200 mcg folic acid per day. After 12 weeks, there was a 14.8% reduction of LDL cholesterol, 11.2% reduction of total cholesterol, and 12.5% homocysteine reduction. No significant changes were found in those taking placebo. No negative side effects were observed.
(Tina Heinz, Jan Philipp Schuchardt, Katharina Möller et al., “LDL-cholesterol-lowering effect of monacolin K from red yeast rice extract – results of a randomized, placebo-controlled intervention study”, Nutrition Research Journal, July 2016, Institute of Food Science, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany  http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2016.07.005)


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