Red Yeast Rice Side Effects

red yeast rice side effects

Thousands of people suffer from high cholesterol or are at risk for heart disease, and many of these people will turn to natural remedies over pharmaceuticals in order to treat their high cholesterol. One such remedy that is known to be very effective is called red yeast rice [1]. If you or a loved one have high cholesterol it may be worth looking into natural remedies such as red yeast rice before turning to pharmaceuticals, but it is also important to be well informed about what you are taking and what the potential side effects are.

What is Red Yeast Rice?

Red Yeast Rice is an extract that comes from rice that has been grown over with a specific breed of yeast. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and dates as far back as 300 BC. The preparation at that time was used as something of a cure-all to make you feel invigorated and revitalized. It was also said to aid in digestion as well as being used as an ingredient in cooking and a dye [2].

Why is it Good for Blood Pressure?

More recently, the active ingredients of red yeast rice have been discovere, and it was somewhat shocking to find one of the active compounds in red yeast rice is actually a chemical called lovastatin, which is the active chemical in the prescription drug Mevacor. Since this discovery, the legal status and safety of red yeast rice has come into question, but this finding also lead to the discovery of a new use for the supplement. Mevacor is used in the treatment of high cholesterol [3], and since red yeast rice has the same active ingredient as Mevacor, scientists decided to run tests to see if red yeast rice would also be effective in the treatment of high cholesterol. After extensive medical trials were completed it was found that red yeast rice was, in fact, effective at treating high cholesterol for many people. However, the presence of lovastatin in this supplement alarmed many people, including the FDA, who has had several brands of the product removed from shelves.

Possible Red Yeast Rice Side Effects

The actions of the FDA in removing the product from shelves and the presence of an actual prescription drug in red yeast rice is naturally alarming to people, and it raises the question of how safe red yeast rice is for consumption. The reason Mevacor is a prescription medication rather than over-the-counter is that it is known to cause serious liver and muscle damage, and if you are on Mevacor you are supposed to be getting your liver functioning checked by your physician regularly. These same risks apply to anything that has the compound lovastatin in it, including red yeast rice. There are also concerns voiced by many over the levels of lovastatin varying wildly from one red yeast rice product to another, as well as the possibility for the wrong breed of yeast to be used, potentially creating a toxin. As of yet, the safety of red yeast rice is still in question, and talking with your doctor about it if you have high cholesterol is highly advised [4].


  1. A Meta-Analysis of Red Yeast Rice: An Effective and Relatively Safe Alternative Approach for Dyslipidemia
    Yinhua Li, Long Jiang, Zhangrong Jia, Wei Xin, Shiwei Yang, Qiu Yang, * and Luya Wang * PLoS One. 2014; 9(6): e98611. Published online 2014 Jun 4. doi: [10.1371/journal.pone.0098611]
  2. Red Yeast Rice
    Thu Nguyen,1,* Mitchell Karl,1 and Antonello Santini2 Foods. 2017 Mar; 6(3): 19.
    Published online 2017 Mar 1. doi: [10.3390/foods6030019]
  3. Cholesterol Lowering Drugs
    Kenneth R Feingold, MD and Carl Grunfeld, MD, PhD. De Groot LJ, Chrousos G, Dungan K, et al., editors. South Dartmouth (MA):, Inc.; 2000-.
  4. Safety and Efficacy of Red Yeast Rice (Monascus purpureus) as an Alternative Therapy for Hyperlipidemia
    Matthew Klimek, PharmD, Shan Wang, PharmD, and Adeleye Ogunkanmi, PharmD P T. 2009 Jun; 34(6): 313–327.
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