Interest is increasing regarding the potential health effects of red yeast rice (RYR) consumption, which is described as a "natural statin" in China. This review aims to evaluate the efficacy of RYR on blood pressure (BP), lipid profile, and C-reactive protein (CRP) in treating hypertension. Seven electronic databases including the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, EMBASE, PubMed, the Chinese National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI), the Chinese Scientific Journal Database (VIP), the Chinese Biomedical Literature Database (CBM), and the Wanfang database were searched. To investigate the role of RYR for hypertension, randomized controlled trials for the use of RYR either as monotherapy or in combination with conventional medicine versus placebo, no intervention, or conventional medicine for hypertension were identified. A total of 21 trials containing 4558 patients were analyzed, the majority of which had low methodological quality. "RYR plus conventional therapy" exhibited significant lowering effects on serum total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), and CRP but exhibited no significant effect on systolic BP, diastolic BP, triglycerides (TG), and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) compared with "placebo plus conventional therapy." "RYR plus conventional therapy" showed significant lowering effects on systolic BP, TC, LDL-C, and CRP but no effect on diastolic BP, TG, and HDL-C compared with "placebo plus conventional therapy." No significant difference in BP and lipid profile between "RYR plus conventional therapy" and "statins plus conventional therapy" was observed. "RYR plus statins" appeared to be more effective in lowering BP, TC, TG, and LDL-C but without a significant difference in HDL-C compared to statins. No serious adverse events were reported. The results of this meta-analysis suggested some supportive but limited evidence regarding RYR for hypertension. Further rigorously designed trials are warranted before RYR could be recommended to hypertensive patients.
Keywords: Monascus purpureus; antihypertensive effect; hongqu; lipid-lowering effect; natural statin; red Koji.