March 3, 2012

Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Red Yeast Rice, and Sudden Cardiac Death

For people with high cholesterol, or at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, there are a couple of concentrated nutritional supplements that may be helpful to aid in lowering the risk of a fatal heart attack or disabling heart disease.

The first is the unique and natural native product from China - red yeast rice. It has been used in customary medical systems from about 800 A.D. This rice is produced when white rice is fermented with (monascus purpureus) red yeast. It is said to be used first in China (more than 2800 years in the past) as food coloring agent and food preservative. The first assumed use of the recipe for making red yeast rice was in 1368-1644 - the Ming Dynasty. It was reported even at that time to boost blood circulation. There is careful production of the red yeast rice extract to prevent any citrinin presence, a by-product of the process of fermentation which is sometimes toxic. When CoQ10 is added, there appears to be further enhancement of the product to support the immune system as well as healthy cardiovascular functions.

Chinese cuisine has used red yeast rice as cardiac supplements for centuries - that is, to encourage blood circulation and reduce clotting. Asian countries use red yeast rice as a staple for diets, used in making rice wine, flavour agent, as well as to maintain the colour and flavour of meat and fish. The red yeast rice develops inhibitors referred to as monacolins. These inhibitors (hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMG-CoA reductase)) occur naturally. The healing properties of the red yeast rice positively affect the lipid reports of patients who are hypercholesterolemic.

The second concentrated nutritient that may be of benefit to your heart is omega-3 fatty acid. This appears to be helpful for people that are at risk of heart disease, or are currently experiencing the negative effects of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids appear to have an anti-arrhythmic effect, and have been shown in some research to reduce the risk of sudden death by about a half, and reduce the risk of cardiac death by a third. Modest doses are recommended because of the possible interaction with other supplements or medications a person may be taking, such as aspirin and other blood-thinning medications.

The primary side effects of red yeast rice appear to be primarily due to contaminants during production. Selecting a product from a reputable manufacturer is especially important for this supplement. The primary side effects of omega-3 fatty acids likely come from interactions with pharmaceuticals. It is important to let your physician and pharmacist know about what you are taking, so they can help you minimize any side-effects. Also, keep in mind that supplementation does not replace a healthy diet full of plant foods. Balance supplementation with a moderate and balanced diet.


Ong HT, Cheah JS. Statin alternatives or just placebo: an objective review of omega-3, red yeast rice and garlic in cardiovascular therapeutics. Chin Med J (Engl). 2008 Aug 20;121(16):1588-94.