AAHF | A newly published, randomized–controlled trial has concluded that a natural supplement, red yeast rice, had significant cholesterol-lowering properties. This is important news for those who cannot take (or would prefer not to take) statin drugs because of the medication’s side effects.
Statin drugs have been oversold to physicians and patients alike, with little risk-to-benefit ratio analysis. The compliance record for statin drugs remains poor because of the numerous side effects associated with their use. Beatrice Golomb, MD, PhD, at www.statineffects.com and Duane Graveline, MD, at www.spacedoc.net have both documented statin side effects ranging from muscle fatigue and complete muscle shutdown to increased risk of heart failure and loss of memory—and a long list of other reactions as well. While it is important not to ignore blood lipids, the idea that treating what the test results reveal will correct the underlying health problems is a fallacy, because it overlooks the lifestyle factors that underlie many of the risks associated with heart disease. Relationships, stress, systemic inflammation, homocysteine levels, inactivity, smoking, insulin sensitivity, the type and amount of dietary fat, and other factors have critical roles to play in the picture of who develops heart disease.
David Becker, MD, who led the trial at Chestnut Hill Hospital in Pennsylvania, studied patients with extremely high LDL levels who had tried statin drugs, only to stop them because of the side effects. Half the group took 1800 mg of red yeast rice twice a day for 24 weeks; the other half took a placebo. The average drop in LDL cholesterol levels among those taking the red yeast rice after 12 weeks was 43 points. The placebo group dropped an average of 11 points. The infrequent side effects associated with the use of red yeast rice were mild—at most, mild headaches and abdominal discomfort. Note, however, that red yeast rice is not recommended for those with liver disease.
With a better track record than statin drugs at lowering LDL, a lower price tag, and a much lower risk of side effects, why has the medical profession failed to inform patients they have another treatment option? The Portfolio diet from the University of Toronto also lowered total cholesterol to the same extent as cholesterol-lowering medication, but did so with a long list of other health benefits. A major US medical journal has now published the research to back the use of red yeast rice for those who cannot use statin drugs because of their side effects. Why are physicians failing to mention these much healthier options. In 2007, statin drug sales in the US reached $33.7 billion. Could it be that the drug industry is too powerful a vested interest in our medical system?
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