Fish Oil and Red Yeast Rice May Lower Cholesterol

A study published in the renowned Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that taking red yeast rice and fish oil supplements, together with a healthy diet and exercise, lowered cholesterol as effectively as a prescription statin.

The use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs has skyrocketed in recent years, but as many as 40 percent of patients who receive a prescription for statins take the drug for less than one year. Reasons include the high cost, adverse side effects, and patients' reluctance to take prescription medications long term.

Because of this high "drop-out" rate, a group of researchers decided to examine whether an alternative approach to treating high blood cholesterol may provide an effective treatment option for patients who are unable or unwilling to take statins.

Researchers followed 74 patients with high blood cholesterol who met standard criteria for using statin therapy. Patients were randomly assigned to either the alternative treatment group or the statin group.

The alternative treatment group participants received daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplements, and they were enrolled in a 12-week multidisciplinary lifestyle program that involved educational meetings led by a cardiologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and several alternative or relaxation practitioners.

The statin group participants received 40 milligrams (mg) of Zocor (simvastatin) daily, as well as printed materials about diet and exercise recommendations.

After three months, researchers saw a reduction in LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind) in both groups. However, while the reductions were similar-42.4% for the alternative treatment group versus 39.6% for the statin group-the alternative therapy group also had a substantial reduction in triglycerides and lost more weight.

"These results are intriguing and show a potential benefit of an alternative, or naturopathic, approach to a common medical condition," notes the study's lead author.

A larger clinical trial with a longer follow-up period will be necessary to gather more conclusive evidence that the combination of red yeast rice and fish oil can be an effective alternative to statins. But if you would rather not take prescription drugs to lower your cholesterol, talk to your healthcare practitioner about this study and how it may apply to your cholesterol situation.

Fish oil, an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, is part of the Essential Fatty Acid Complex found in our Basic Nutrient Support.

Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice. A dietary staple in some Asian countries, it contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol production.