Red Yeast Rice Supplements Lacking Standardization

Concentration of active ingredient varies widely by product; some contain potential toxin
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Red yeast rice, a popular dietary supplement for reducing cholesterol, contains widely differing concentrations of monacolins, the active ingredients, by brand, and some contain a potentially toxic substance, according to research published in the Oct. 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Ram Y. Gordon, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted an analysis of 12 commercial preparations of red yeast rice, evaluating monacolin levels in each formulations and testing for citrinin, a nephrotoxic mycotoxin in animals.

The researchers found that total monacolins varied from 0.31 to 11.15 mg/capsule among the 12 products. Monacolin K (lovastatin) ranged from 0.10 to 10.09 mg/capsule, and monacolin KA ranged from undetectable to 2.30 mg/capsule. Four of the 12 formulations were found to have elevated levels of citrinin.

"Our results highlight an important issue with red yeast rice and many other alternative medicines: the lack of standardization of active constituents," the authors write. "One-third of the products tested were contaminated with citrinin, a mycotoxin produced by several Monascus, Penicillium, and Aspergillus species found in poorly manufactured red yeast rice products. Although its effects on humans [are] unknown, it has been found to be genotoxic in cultured human lymphocytes at high concentrations. Further research is necessary to elucidate the possible adverse effects of citrinin in humans to place our findings in the proper context."

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