Red yeast rice

Red yeast rice

Red yeast rice (Chinese: , ; pinyin: hóng qú mǐ ; lit. "red yeast rice"), red fermented rice, red kojic rice, red koji rice, or ang-kak, is a bright reddish purple fermented rice, which acquires its colour from being cultivated with the mold "Monascus purpureus". In Japan, it is known as "beni-koji" (べにこうじ, lit. "red "koji") or "akakoji" (あかこぎ, also meaning "red "koji") and in Taiwan it is sometimes also called "âng-chau" () in Taiwanese. Among the Hakka, it is known as fungkiuk. In China it is widely available under the brand name XueZhiKang (), and in Singapore it is available as Hypocol. (see ref: Dennis Lee, M.D.)

Red yeast rice is sold in jars at Asian markets as a pasteurized wet aggregate, whole dried grains, or as a ground powder. It was a commonly used red food colouring in East Asian and Chinese cuisine prior to the discovery of chemical food colouring. It has also been used in Chinese herbal medicine.


Red yeast rice is produced by cultivating "Monascus purpureus" on polished rice. The rice is first soaked in water until the grains are fully saturated. The raw soaked rice can then either be directly inoculated, or steamed for the purpose of sterilizing and cooking the grains prior to inoculation. Inoculation is done by mixing "M. purpureus" spores or powdered red yeast rice together with the processed rice. The mix is then incubated in an environment around room temperature for 3–6 days. During this period of time, the rice should be fully cultured with "M. purpureus", with each rice grain turning bright red in its core and reddish purple on the outside.

The fully cultured rice is then either sold as the dried grain, or cooked and pasteurized to be sold as a wet paste, or dried and pulverized to be sold as a fine powder. China is the world's largest producer of red yeast rice.

Due to the high cost of chemical dyes, some producers of red yeast rice have tried to adulterate their products with red dye #2 Sudan Red G [] (in Chinese).



The dried grain can be prepared and eaten in the same manner as white rice--a common practice among Asians. It can also be added to other foods.

Red yeast rice is used to colour a wide variety of food products, including pickled tofu, red rice vinegar, "char siu", Peking Duck, and Chinese pastries that require red food colouring. It is also traditionally used in the production of several types of Chinese wine, Japanese "sake" ("akaisake"), and Korean rice wine ("hongju"), imparting a reddish colour to these wines. [] []

Although used mainly for its colour in cuisine, red yeast rice imparts a subtle but pleasant taste to food and is commonly used in the cuisine of Fujian regions of China.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

In addition to its culinary use, red yeast rice is also used in traditional Chinese herbology and traditional Chinese medicine. Its use has been documented as far back as the Tang Dynasty in China in 800 A.D. and taken internally to invigorate the body, aid in digestion, and remove "blood blockages".

Modern Medicine

Red yeast rice when produced using the 'Went' strain of "Monascus purpureus" contains significant quantites of the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin which is also known as "mevinolin", a naturally-occurring statin. It is sold as an over the counter dietary supplement for controlling cholesterol (See ref.: Medicine Net). There is strong scientific evidence for its effect in lowering blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein/LDL ("bad cholesterol"), and triglyceride levels (see below). Because an approved drug is identical to the molecule it is therefore regulated as a drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In 1998, the U.S. district court in Utah allowed a product containing red yeast rice extract known as Cholestin to be sold without restriction, but this was reversed on appeal. (Moore, 2001) (see ref.: PDRhealth). Cholestin as a product continues to be marketed but no longer contains red yeast rice (RYR). Other companies sell red yeast rice products but most of them use a different strain of yeast or different growing conditions, resulting in RYR with a negligible statin content. The labeling on these new products often says nothing about cholesterol lowering. As late as August 2007, FDA noted supplements being sold containing significant lovastatin levels.(FDA, 2007)

In 2006 Liu et al published a meta-analysis of clinical trials (Chinese Med 2006;1:4-17). The article cited 93 published, controlled clinical trials (91 published in Chinese). Total cholesterol decreased by 35 mg/dl, LDL-cholesterol by 28 mg/dl, triglycerides by 35 mg/dl, and HDL-cholesterol increased by 6 mg/dl. Zhao et al reported on a four-year trial in people with diabetes (J Cardio Pharmacol 2007;49:81-84). There was a 40-50% reduction in cardio events and cardio deaths in the treated group. Ye et al reported on a four-year trial in elderly Chinese patients with heart disease (J Am Geriatr Soc 2007;55:1015-22). Deaths were down 32%. There is at least one report in the literature of a statin-like myopathy caused by red yeast rice (Mueller PS. Ann Intern Med 2006;145:474-5).

An article in the June 15, 2008, issue of the American Journal of Cardiology found that red yeast rice may provide benefits beyond those provided by statins. The researchers reported that the benefits seemed to exceed those reported with lovastatin alone.cite journal |author=Lu Z, Kou W, Du B, "et al" |title=Effect of xuezhikang, an extract from red yeast chinese rice, on coronary events in a chinese population with previous myocardial infarction |journal=Am. J. Cardiol. |volume=101 |issue=12 |pages=1689–93 |year=2008 |month=June |pmid=18549841 |doi=10.1016/j.amjcard.2008.02.056 |url=] found large variation in the active compounds between red yeast rice supplements, and also found that some of them were contaminated with citrinin, a nephrotoxic mycotoxin. [ [ Red rice yeast supplements raise contamination issues - Food Production Daily] ] [ [ Product Review: Red Yeast Rice Supplements] ] Evidence about the side effects of red yeast rice is limited, but it may have similar side effects to the drug lovastatin, which include kidney problems and other side effects. [] Regular medical monitoring is needed to detect such effects.


* cite web|author=Richard N. Rogoros, M.D.|title=Non-prescription Cholesterol Lowering|url=|accessdate=August 19|accessyear=2006
* cite web|author=Dennis Lee, M.D.|title=Red Yeast Rice and Cholesterol - A Critical Review|url=|accessdate=August 19|accessyear=2006
* cite web|author=FDA
title=FDA Warns Consumers to Avoid Red Yeast Rice Products Promoted on Internet as Treatments for High Cholesterol
date=August 9, 2007|accessdate=August 10|accessyear=2007

External links

* [ Website about medicinal use of "Monascus purpureus"]
* [ Medicinal use of Red yeast rice]

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