Saw an interesting article on Medscape that involved a comparison between the medication group “statins” (i.e. Crestor, Lipitor) and their effectiveness in lowering cholesterol versus red yeast rice. The name of the study was Red Yeast Rice and Hyperlipidemia: How strong is the Evidence?  by author, Charles P. Vega, MD.  The author discusses both the benefits and drawbacks of statin therapy. Myopathy (muscle pain and breakdown) and rhabdomyolysis (the toxic product of muscle breakdown that will damage kidneys) are the most severe complications of statin therapy. However, these complications must be weighed against the benefits of reducing both cardiovascular events and arterial plaque.

 Red yeast rice was initially compared to placebo treatment in those patients who could not tolerate statin therapy. It was administered over a period of 24 weeks, with only 4 patients leaving the treatment group. After the treatment term ended, the researchers  found that the group taking the red yeast rice had a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by -27.3% versus the placebo group. In addition, a separate trial of 5000 patients with a history of heart attack demonstrated that red yeast rice reduced the risk of another heart attack by 62% and death due to cardiovascular disease by 31%. Although more research is needed, , red yeast rice certainly holds promise for the future without the toxic side effects.

 On the same front, also released today was a large study comparing Zetia/Vytorin versus Niaspan (Niacin is a B vitamin). The study revealed that niaspan was well more effective than Zetia in increasing HDL (good cholesterol) and modestly lowering the LDL.

 It is nice to see a more natural  line of effective treatments coming into vogue for the near future. I will anxiously await the outcome of further studies and report back.