According to Dr. Tod Cooperman, MD, president of ConsumerLab.com of White Plains, NY, a recent evaluation of red yeast rice supplements has shown such disparate strength—some up to 500 times more potent than others— despite that labels claimed the same amounts. Nutrition Business Journal has noted that sales of these supplements reached $41 million in 2012, reflecting Americans’ interest in managing healthier cholesterol levels. The lab looked at eight brands; three of them contained the amounts of monacolins and lovastatins (inherent compounds in red yeast rice) that were proven in clinical studies to lower cholesterol levels. A few others contained lower amounts, and one brand also had content of citrinin, considered to be a potential kidney toxin.
Cooperman explained, “Labels on red yeast rice products generally do not disclose their lovastatin content due to concern that the supplement will be considered an unapproved drug by the FDA and removed from the market, since lovastatin is a prescription drug (originally sold as Mevacor). This makes it difficult for consumers and doctors to assess and compare red yeast rice supplements, although they remain widely used and can be effective. Red yeast rice can be one of the most effective supplements but one of the most difficult to safely choose.”