High cholesterol is a one of the risk factors for developing heart disease. Losing weight, exercise, and a diet low in saturated fat can help lower cholesterol, but many people cannot control their cholesterol levels by lifestyle changes alone. As a result, many of these individuals start cholesterol lowering medications, like the statins Lipitor and Zocor. However, 40% of statin users discontinue their use after one year. This is because medications can be costly and have adverse side effects; also, may people do not like the idea of being on a drug long-term. Because of the need to find another way to lower cholesterol, over-the-counter alternatives have become popular.
A recent study published in the American Heart Journal found that red yeast rice was effective in lowering cholesterol levels, especially LDL levels. Red yeast rice is a traditional Chinese medicine. It is a substance that has been extracted from rice that has been fermented with a certain type of yeast. Red yeast rice was especially effective when combined together with lifestyle changes.