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Researchers test red yeast rice in cholesterol trial


Brigid Veale
7 June 2005
Researchers from the Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine Education and Research are looking for volunteers to take part in a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of red yeast rice in lowering cholesterol.

The study is being conducted by Professor Stephen Myers, the director of the Centre, which is a joint venture of University of Queensland and Southern Cross University.

Professor Myers said that red yeast rice, a traditional Chinese food, had been used as a traditional medicine in Asia for centuries as a folk remedy.

"The red Koji (or Hongqu) has long been recognised as a folk medicine for improving food digestion and blood circulation," Professor Myers said.

"Along with rice cultivation, the indigenous people of Asia developed various methods of preparation and storage, and for centuries, the Chinese have used fermentation microorganisms to convert agricultural commodities into foods."

He said the traditional method of making red yeast rice was based on a fermentation process in which the yeast was allowed to ferment naturally on a bed of cooked non-glutinous whole rice kernel.

"We will be looking at whether or not red yeast rice is effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease," Professor Myers said.

"Clinical studies have shown that cholesterol-lowering therapy is effective in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease as well as decreasing heart attacks in patients with coronary heart disease.

"Decreasing this 'bad' cholesterol to recommended levels usually requires medication, but we know that natural products with low side effect profiles for the treatment of this condition are in demand."

Professor Myers said they were looking for 72 participants who had cholesterol problems, but were otherwise healthy to take part in a 12-week clinical trial, in which they may receive either active or placebo treatment, followed by nine months of active treatment.

Anyone who is interested in taking part should contact the study co-ordinator Dr Joan O'Connor on 66203649.