"These results are intriguing and show a potential benefit of an alternative, or naturopathic, approach to a common medical condition," researcher David Becker said.
Researchers gave 74 people with high cholesterol a daily dose of either 40 milligrams of simvastatin (a generic cholesterol drug also marketed as Zocor) or a combination of fish oil, red yeast rice and a number of cardiovascular positive lifestyle changes. The fish oil contained 2,106 milligrams of EPA and 1,680 milligrams of DHA, while the red yeast rice contained 5.3 milligrams of monacolin, including 2.53 milligrams of monacolin K.
Monacolin K, also known as lovastatin, is the naturally occurring fungal compound from which the statin drugs were first derived.
After 12 weeks, levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol decreased significantly in both groups. There was no significant difference between the groups, indicating that the yeast and fish oil combination was just as effective as the pharmaceutical drugs. In addition, the fish oil and red yeast rice decreased triglyceride levels by 29 percent, while the statins did not lead to any significant decrease.
"Lifestyle changes combined with ingestion of red yeast rice and fish oil reduced LDL-C in proportions similar to standard therapy with simvastatin," the researchers wrote. "Pending confirmation in larger trials, this multifactorial, alternative approach to lipid lowering has promise for a subset of patients unwilling or unable to take statins."
The researchers noted that due to the small size and short duration of the current study, it was not possible to determine if red yeast rice and fish oil can actually decrease rates of illness and death, "which is clearly the most important outcome." They called for larger, long-term studies to make sure.
Sources for this story include: foodnavigator-usa.com.
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