July 10, 2008

Fish Oil, Red Yeast Rice Lower Cholesterol

Pennsylvania researchers say an alternative, or naturopathic, method to lower cholesterol can be as effective as cholesterol-reducing medications.

Lead author Dr. David Becker of the University of Pennsylvania Health System said that although the safety of statins has been well documented, 40 percent of patients who receive statins take it for less than one year.

The researchers randomly assigned half of 74 patients with high blood cholesterol to the alternative treatment group. They received daily fish oil and red yeast rice supplements. They also were enrolled in a 12-week lifestyle program that involved weekly 3.5-hour educational meetings led by a cardiologist, dietitian, exercise physiologist and several alternative or relaxation practitioners.

Red yeast rice contains several compounds known to inhibit cholesterol production.

The statins group participants received 40 milligrams of Zocor daily and printed materials about diet and exercise recommendations.

The study, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, said the alternative treatment group experienced a 42.4 percent reduction, in low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the bad cholesterol, while the statin group experienced a 39.6 percent reduction. Members of the alternative therapy group also had a substantial reduction in triglycerides and lost more weight.