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10-28-2010, 03:55 AM
Nostrums: Caution Urged on Cholesterol-Lowering Supplement

By RONI CARYN RABIN

Americans trying to avoid cholesterol (http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/nutrition/cholesterol/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier)-lowering drugs are spending tens of millions of dollars each year on Chinese red yeast rice, a supplement found to lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol.
But the amount of the active ingredient in the supplement varies widely from one brand to another and possibly from batch to batch, a new study has found. And one in three tested products contained a substance that may be toxic to the kidneys.
For the study (http://archinte.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/short/170/19/1722), published Monday in Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists analyzed samples from a dozen red yeast rice products. While some capsules contained as little as 0.1 milligram of the active ingredient, known as monacolins, others contained 11.15 milligrams.
Four tested samples contained citrinin, a fungus that causes kidney failure (http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/acute-kidney-failure/overview.html?inline=nyt-classifier) in animals.
Earlier studies by the same authors had reported that red yeast rice did effectively lower LDL cholesterol. Now the authors are urging caution, noting that as supplements, the products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/food_and_drug_administration/index.html?inline=nyt-org) and are not standardized. The F.D.A. has warned consumers not to use red yeast rice products that claim to lower cholesterol.
“Our take on it is that red yeast rice, unlike a lot of unproven herbal products, really works,” said the lead author, Dr. Ram Y. Gordon, a cardiologist at Chestnut Hill Hospital, part of the University of Pennsylvania (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/u/university_of_pennsylvania/index.html?inline=nyt-org) Health System. “But because of what we found, there are inherent problems in saying that this is good for people.”