Research shows that red yeast rice, which contains naturally-occurring lovastatin compounds, can lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. However, because amounts of lovastatins are not typically listed on supplement labels, consumers have no way knowing if they are taking an effective dose. Recent ConsumerLab tests of red yeast rice supplements on the market found most did not contain amounts of lovastatins shown to lower cholesterol in clinical trials. Amounts of lovastatins in certain products were also found to have decreased substantially since the same products were tested by ConsumerLab several years ago.
"If used according to their suggested serving sizes, only two of the nine red yeast rice supplements we tested would provide amounts of lovastatin known to lower cholesterol," said ConsumerLab president Tod Cooperman, MD. “Unfortunately, this means that some consumers may be relying on—and spending money on—products that are unlikely to be effective."
Clinical studies of red yeast rice have shown reductions in LDL cholesterol of about 20% from supplements providing between 4.9 mg to 27 mg of lovastatins per daily serving. But ConsumerLab.com’s tests showed that most of the products it selected for testing contained much lower amounts, and there was wide variation between products, with lovastatins ranging from just 0.43 mg to 12.9 mg per suggested daily serving. Four products were found to contain 37-81% less lovastatin than when tested by ConsumerLab in 2014.
None of the products were found to be contaminated with citrinin, a potential kidney toxin caused by fungal growth in rice products which ConsumerLab has detected in red yeast rice supplements in previous years. ConsumerLab.com first tested red yeast rice supplements in 2008, when it also found large variation in the amount of lovastatin provided, as well as elevated levels of citrinin in several of the products. The results were published in a peer-reviewed article in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Labels on red yeast rice products generally do not disclose their lovastatin content due to concern that the supplement will be considered an unapproved drug by the FDA and removed from the market, since lovastatin is a prescription drug (originally sold as Mevacor). Red yeast rice may be effective for some people with elevated cholesterol levels who don’t respond to prescription statin drugs, however, as ConsumerLab’s tests showed, it may be difficult to ensure a consistent dose when using red yeast rice.
The new findings are available online in ConsumerLab's Red Yeast Rice Supplements Review, which includes it's Top Pick—a red yeast supplement that provided amounts of lovastatins known to work at a good value.
The review provides test results and comparisons for nine red yeast rice supplements selected for testing by ConsumerLab: Amazing Nutrition Red Yeast Rice, HPF Cholestene Red Yeast Rice, Mason Natural Red Yeast Rice, Nature's Plus Herbal Actives Red Yeast Rice, Nature's Sunshine Red Yeast Rice, Nature's Way Red Yeast Rice, Solaray Red Yeast Rice, Thorne Research Choleast, and Whole Foods Red Yeast Rice. The review also summarizes the clinical evidence for red yeast rice, dosage and how to take red yeast rice, as well as safety, side effects and potential drug interactions.