Red yeast rice: Popular cholesterol-lowering option could carry risks

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Red yeast rice: Popular cholesterol-lowering option could carry risks

Red yeast rice: Learn about the Food and Drug Administration's warning regarding this supplement.

What happened? The Food and Drug Administration has warned that three brands of red yeast rice supplements may contain a drug that could be harmful to your health.

Red yeast rice is touted as a dietary supplement that can be used to treat high cholesterol. There is some evidence that red yeast rice can help lower your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol. However, the FDA has warned that the following red yeast rice products could contain a prescription medication known as lovastatin:

  • Red Yeast Rice and Red Yeast Rice/Policosanol Complex sold by Swanson Health Products Inc. and manufactured by Nature's Value Inc. and Kabco Inc.
  • Cholestrix, sold by Sunburst Biorganics.

Lovastatin is the active ingredient in Mevacor, a prescription drug sold in the United States as a treatment for high cholesterol. Lovastatin — a type of cholesterol-lowering drug known as a statin — is also available generically. You may be wondering what all the fuss is about if lovastatin helps lower cholesterol. However, the presence of lovastatin in the red yeast rice products in question is potentially dangerous because there's no way for you to know what level or quality of lovastatin might be in red yeast rice.

What does this mean to you? Lovastatin can interact with other medications you may take and harm your health. In addition, lovastatin can cause severe muscle problems that could result in kidney damage. This risk is especially true if you take higher doses of lovastatin, or combine lovastatin with other medications that make you more susceptible to muscle problems. Medications that lovastatin can interact dangerously with include the antidepressant nefazodone, certain antibiotics, drugs used to treat fungus infections and HIV infections, as well as other cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The FDA has ordered the makers of the red yeast rice products in question to stop marketing the supplements. Red yeast rice is often promoted and sold on Web sites.

Stop taking a red yeast rice supplement if it's one of the three types discussed here, and visit your health care provider if you notice any problems you think might be related to taking the supplements such as unexplained muscle pain. If you take any red yeast rice product, discuss that with your health care provider.

Early exploration

As children learn to walk and talk, they also begin to learn about their bodies. Open the door to sex education by teaching your children the proper names for their sex organs, perhaps during bath time. If your children point to a body part, simply tell them what it is. This is also a good time to talk about which parts of the body are private.

When your children ask questions about their bodies — or yours — don't giggle, laugh or get embarrassed. Take their questions at face value. Offer direct, age-appropriate responses. If your children want to know more, they'll ask.

Curiosity about others

By age 3 or 4, children often realize that boys and girls have different genitals. As natural curiosity kicks in, you may find your children playing "doctor" or examining each other's sex organs. This exploration is far removed from adult sexual activity, and it's harmless when only young children are involved. As a family matter, however, you may want to set limits on such exploration.

Last Updated: 08/15/2007
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