Red yeast rice is a Chinese fermented rice product (Monascus purpureus) that some have claimed improves blood circulation by decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in humans. The supplement contains naturally occurring monacolin K, the active ingredient found in Merck's prescription agent lovastatin (Mevacor). Lovastatin is associated with various adverse effects such as myopathy and abnormal liver function test results, which can lead to serious problems if patients are not monitored and treated. The inclusion of lovastatin in red yeast rice and the lack of dietary supplement regulation by the FDA raise safety concerns for health care professionals as well as for patients. Studies have shown that red yeast rice products can be beneficial in lowering serum cholesterol levels, but they are not without risk. Furthermore, product uniformity, purity, labeling, and safety cannot be guaranteed.
Keywords: Monascus purpureus; dietary supplement; hyperlipidemia; lovastatin; myopathy; red yeast rice.