Chinese Condiment Cuts Blood Cholesterol

ORLANDO, Fla, March 25 -- The spice that gives Peking duck its distinctive red color seems to lower blood cholesterol, two research teams reported today at the American Heart Association's epidemiology and prevention meeting.

In a study conducted in China, an extract of the red yeast fermented on rice, which is sold under the name of Cholestin, reduced total blood cholesterol by nearly 26 percent in elderly patients after eight weeks of treatment, says the study's lead author, Joseph Chang, Ph.D., vice president of clinical affairs at Pharmanex, Inc. The Simi Valley, Calif., company imports the dietary supplement to the United States.

"Cholestin also reduced 'bad' cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) by 32.8 percent and decreased by 19.9 percent triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with increased risk for heart disease," says Chang.

The average total cholesterol level of study participants was 225 milligrams/deciliter (mg/dL); average LDL was 160 mg/dL and average triglyerides were 250 mg/dL. LDL is called the "bad" cholesterol because it collects in the blood vessels to form plaque that can block blood flow, triggering a heart attack or stroke. Individuals who did not receive the supplement had reductions of total blood cholesterol and LDL of about 7 percent, says Chang.

James Rippe, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, reports similar results in a second study that was conducted in 12 medical centers and funded by Pharmanex. He reports that after eight weeks on Cholestin, individuals had a 16.4 percent drop in total blood cholesterol. Their LDL decreased by 21 percent, and HDL-cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, increased by 14.6 percent. HDL cholesterol is called the "good" cholesterol because it helps remove the "bad" cholesterol from the blood. The average cholesterol levels for this group were 242 mg/dL; average LDL was 158 mg/dL and the average HDL was

Contact: Carole Bullock
American Heart Association

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