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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Natural Supplements Can Also Fight Cholesterol

The recent study questioning the efficacy of two popular prescription drugs in reducing disease-causing cholesterol has triggered a strong response by their makers Schering-Plough Corp and Merck & Co. Full page ads in Sunday’s New York Times from the companies attest to the effectiveness of both Zetia and Vytorin.

While big pharma scrambles, adherents of natural remedies are talking about a new-old dietary supplement that even the Mayo Clinic says has impressive evidence of effectiveness. It’s something called red yeast rice. And in China it’s been used for its benefits to the circulatory system since 800 A.D.

Red yeast rice is named for a red or purple substance released by a fungus grown on fermented rice. It is marketed as a more natural and less expensive alternative to statin drugs such as Lipitor. Available in capsules in health food stores and over the Internet, red yeast rice actually creates the same monacolin-K, or lovastatin, that is the main ingredient in the generic version of the prescription drug Mevacor.

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, red yeast rice has the benefit of “strong” scientific evidence, stating that “..since the 1970s, human studies have reported that red yeast rice lowers blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein/LDL ("bad cholesterol"), and triglyceride levels.”

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