Functional food red yeast rice (RYR) for metabolic syndrome amelioration: a review on pros and cons

World J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2016 May;32(5):87. doi: 10.1007/s11274-016-2035-2. Epub 2016 Apr 2.


Red yeast rice (RYR), the fermentation product of mold Monascus purpureus has been an integral part of Oriental food and traditional Chinese medicine, long before the discovery of their medicinal roles. With the identification of bioactive components as polyketide pigments (statins), and unsaturated fatty acids, RYR has gained a nutraceutical status. Hypercholesterolemic effect of this fermented compound has been validated and monacolin K has been recognized as the pivotal component in cholesterol alleviation. Functional similarity with commercial drug lovastatin sans the side effects has catapulted its popularity in other parts of the world as well. Apart from the hypotensive role, ameliorative benefits of RYR as anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, anticancer and osteogenic agent have emerged, fueling intense research on it. Mechanistic studies have revealed their interaction with functional agents like coenzyme Q10, astaxanthin, vitamin D, folic acid, policosanol, and berberine. On the other hand, concurrence of mycotoxin citrinin and variable content of statin has marred its integration in mainstream medication. In this disputable scenario, evaluation of the scopes and lacunae to overcome seems to contribute to an eminent area of healthcare. Red yeast rice (RYR), the rice-based fermentation product of mold Monascus purpureus is a functional food. Its bioactive component monacolin K acts like synthetic drug lovastatin, without the severe side effects of the latter. RYR has been validated to lower cholesterol, control high blood pressure; confer anti-flammation, hypoglycaemic, anticancer and osteogenic properties. However, dose inconsistency and co-occurrence of toxin citrinin hampers its dietary supplementation prospect. Further research might facilitate development of RYR as a nutraceutical.

Keywords: Dyslipidemia; Lovastatin; Monacolin; Monascus; Red yeast rice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Products / adverse effects
  • Biological Products / chemistry
  • Biological Products / metabolism*
  • Functional Food / adverse effects
  • Functional Food / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Monascus / metabolism*
  • Oryza / chemistry
  • Oryza / metabolism
  • Oryza / microbiology*


  • Biological Products
  • red yeast rice