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What are the Side Effects of Red Yeast Rice?

By Matt Brady
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chinese folklore has long held that the beneficial side effects of red yeast rice include reducing levels of bad cholesterol, reducing the odds of heart disease, and improving blood flow. After years of speculation, clinical studies have proven that red yeast rice does indeed have cholesterol-reducing properties. Red yeast rice has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a dietary supplement, and has been growing in popularity in the West. Red yeast rice is made by taking rice and fermenting it with red yeast, scientifically known as monascus purpureus.

Asian communities have been enjoying the beneficial side effects of red yeast rice for centuries. They use it as a health supplement as well as in wine, food coloring, and food preservatives. Many Asian cultures not only regard red yeast rice as a cholesterol reducer, but also as a digestive aid, and as a substance that’s healthy for the stomach and spleen.

While it's long been embraced in Eastern culture, Western culture still remains suspicious of red yeast rice. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for example, is wary of encouraging people to liberally consume red yeast rice, for the reason that other statins, or drugs which reduce cholesterol, have been known to cause kidney and muscle problems in certain people. The FDA is thus concerned that the side effects of red yeast rice may include damaged kidneys and muscle tissue.

Other purported side effects of red yeast rice include the lowering of the risk for heart disease. Studies haven't outright proven this claim, but there is some evidence to suggest that red yeast rice contains such properties. Indirectly at least, by lowering levels of bad cholesterol, there's a decent chance that red yeast rice could indeed lower the risk of heart disease. Some people also believe that red yeast rice is beneficial to diabetics. This claim, however, has yet to be thoroughly tested.

The negative side effects of red yeast rice aren't well known. The theory that red yeast rice might cause kidney and muscle problems comes from comparing red yeast rice with the negative side effects of other statins. Among the muscle problems that red yeast rice might cause is myopathy, a muscle disease which causes inflammation and weakness. Also after comparing red yeast rice with statins, some experts think that it could cause asthma, heartburn, and bloating in some people, among other complications.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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