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September preview: Red yeast rice for cardiovascular health

Editors' note: In the upcoming September issue of Functional Ingredients we will publish our third annual Condition Specific guide. Check out our editors' picks for the top ingredients in each health category and for a list of suppliers. The following is a peek at some of the information we uncovered.

For the past 10 years, Draco Natural Products of California has offered red yeast rice for custom dietary supplement formulations. A June 2009 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported that the ingredient lowers cholesterol in patients who cannot tolerate statin therapy because of muscle pain. The study involved 62 patients who were assigned to receive either three 600mg red yeast rice capsules or three placebo capsules twice a day for 24 weeks.

During the 24 weeks of the study, LDL cholesterol levels decreased more in patients receiving red yeast rice (average decrease, 35 mg/dL) than in patients receiving placebo (average decrease, 15 mg/dL). Total cholesterol levels also improved more in the red yeast rice group than in the placebo group.

This is a dicey ingredient, however, because it is molecularly identical to some statin drugs, manufacturers of which don't take kindly to supplemental competition. Put a heart on the label — but don't mention any cardiovascular condition it might address — and you might be alright.

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