Red yeast rice is also known as the red fermented rice or red kojic rice or red koji rice or anka or ang-kak. And, as the very name goes, this Chinese variety of rice is bright red in color, often purple. It acquires its color from being fermented with a type of mold called as the Monascus purpureus.
To lower the cost of production, low quality red yeast rice are commonly available which are dyed red artificially using red dye #2 Sudan Red G.
Uses of Red Yeast Rice
The red yeast rice has culinary as well as medicinal uses. It is also used as a replacement for various statin drugs.
Culinary Importance: This particular variety of rice that is used primarily to add color to a range of products like red rice vinegar, pickled tofu,Peking Duck, char siu, and Chinese pastries that require the red food coloring. Traditionally, it was used in the making of various types of Japanese sake also known asakaisake, Korean rice wine also known as hongju and Chinese wine the main reason being that it give a reddish color to these wines. Apart from the function of adding color, the red yeast rice is also known to impart a delicate but wonderful taste to the food and is very frequently used in the cooking of the people from the Fujian areas of China.
Traditional Chinese medications: Apart from its culinary uses, traditionally, the red yeast rice has also been used in the preparation and production of Chinese medicines and Chinese herbology back during the Tang Dynasty period in 800 AD.It is consumed orally and helps rejuvenate the body, helps in digestion, and revitalizes the blood.
Statin drugs: Lovastatin and other such prescription statin drugs slow down the synthesis of cholesterol by blocking the reaction of the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase, as a result of which the respective levels of circulating LDL-cholesterol and total cholesterol are lowered. In the early 1970s, Red yeast rice (as a result of its Monacolin content) had become an argumentative, non-prescription dietary supplement in the America and other countries, replacing Lovastatin and other statin drugs due to its property of inhibiting cholesterol synthesis in the human body.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is of the thought that since the red yeast rice and its subsequent product contains monacolin K i.e. lovastatin, they are similar to a medicine and must be treated so. In the year 1998, the FDA banned Cholestin, a product containing extract of red yeast rice.
Following 2003, products made from red yeast rice again began to be sold in the market. In 2010, almost 30 brands of red yeast rice and its products are available. These brands are up and running in the market for they claim that it contains unappreciable amounts of Monacolin K and are hence not subjected to FDA restrictions imposed on statin drugs.
Statin drugs are known for causing possible muscle, kidney (renal) or liver damage. As the red yeast rice has been known to replace statin drugs at various occasions, the effects of red yeast rice are also estimated to be somewhat similar due to its monacolin content. Till date, the safety of red yeast rice and its derivatives has not been established. Also, commercial supplements may vary in their percentage of monacolin content, which further defines the risk.
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