One of the questions clients have asked me is whether it is okay to take red yeast rice extract to lower their cholesterol levels?
My first question for them is, why do they even want to lower their cholesterol? I ask this question because most people have no understanding of cholesterol and its role in the body.
We’re told that LDL, or bad cholesterol, damages our health. We’re told that the high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, is actually beneficial for our health. But this is only a small part of the cholesterol story. Heart disease occurs by way of inflammation, and inflammatory mechanisms go far beyond just HDL and LDL ratios. If you are worried about heart disease, keep your blood pressure down, your weight down, and keep your bowel function working.
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There are many videos you can watch on the internet about the cholesterol myth, which is also referred to as the “Big Fat Lie.” It’s simply not true that you need to lower cholesterol to prolong your life. You need to keep cholesterol balanced and in good amounts when you get older because cholesterol is a foundation for four major hormonal pathways in the body. The production of testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, cortisol, and aldosterone requires cholesterol. All these hormones rely on a good supply of cholesterol. If you are going to interfere with your cholesterol levels, you could also potentially be interfering with your hormones.
Red yeast rice extract is a type of fungus. It’s a yeast called Monascus, which grows on rice. It’s quite popular as a health product and has been used since 200 or 300 B.C. Monascus can block the effects of HMG-CoA reductase, which is an enzyme that helps to produce LDL. Monascus essentially acts as a type of “statin” or cholesterol-lowering medication. In that way, it is similar to lovastatin, a highly lucrative cholesterol-lowering drug derived from the fungus Aspergillus.
However, you don’t need to lower LDL to be healthy. Instead, the most important thing to do is ensure your bowel is functioning well. By improving your bowel movements, you improve your body’s ability to bind cholesterol in the gut and excrete it. You don’t need to lower cholesterol by taking drugs.