A type of red yeast fermented on rice, used in Chinese cuisine and sold in the United States as the dietary supplement Cholestin, has been shown to lower the level of blood cholesterol for some people in two preliminary studies presented at the AHA's epidemiology and prevention conference, March 25.
Elevated levels of certain types of cholesterol in the blood have been associated with a higher risk of heart attack. However, because there are no long-term studies that show the red yeast rice to be as safe and effective as diet and/or cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs, the American Heart Association urges individuals with elevated cholesterol levels to consult with their physician before introducing Cholestin into a cholesterol lowering regimen.
"Elevated cholesterol levels need to be evaluated and monitored closely by a physician so that appropriate steps can be taken to lower individuals" level of LDL cholesterol ('bad cholesterol') in their blood," says Thomas A. Pearson, M.D., Ph.D., chairman of the American Heart Association's population science committee and chairman of community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Rochester, NY.
"The first step for most people is to make some changes in their diet -- for example by lowering the amount of saturated fat they eat and by increasing the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products they consume," says Pearson. Most dietary saturated fat is derived from animal products, such as red meat, butter, cheese and whole milk.
If diet alone does not help to lower the LDL cholesterol in an
individual's blood, there are several steps that can be taken, all of which use
prescription medications that have been rigorously tested by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration for safety and effectiveness. Statin drugs, such as
lovastatin, pravastatin, and simvastatin, are a new class of
cholesterol-lowering drugs that are ea
Contact: Darcy Spitz
American Heart Association