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Red Yeast Rice Extract Shows Heart Benefits

In large study, Chinese patients using extract had significant decrease in major coronary events

FRIDAY, June 13 (HealthDay News) -- Long-term use of an extract of red yeast rice in patients with a previous myocardial infarction and average low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels significantly reduced the recurrence of coronary events, according to research published in the June 15 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.

Zongliang Lu, M.D., Ph.D., of the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing, and colleagues analyzed data from 4,870 Chinese patients who were randomized to receive daily placebo or Xuezhikang (XZK) -- a partially purified red yeast rice extract containing lovastatin -- for an average of 4.5 years. All patients had a history of myocardial infarction in the previous 60 months, and they had a mean LDL cholesterol of 129 mg/dL. The primary end point was occurrence of non-fatal myocardial infarction or death from coronary or cardiac causes.

Compared to the placebo group, the treatment group showed an absolute and relative decrease in the primary end point of 4.7 and 45 percent, respectively, the researchers report. Treatment with XZK also decreased cardiovascular and total mortality by 30 percent and 33 percent, respectively, and the need for coronary revascularization by one-third. The treatment also lowered total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raised high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the report indicates.

"The greater effect of XZK may be caused at least in part by the potential properties of its non-statin components. XZK has several ingredients, of which the lovastatin component, although quantitatively predominant, is unlikely to account solely for the favorable plasma lipid-lowering and the rather striking cardiovascular benefit found. Thus, it is likely that components other than lovastatin in XZK, such as lovastatin hydroxy acid, plant sterols, isoflavones and isoflavone glycosides, also likely contributed to results," the authors write.

The study was sponsored by WBL Peking University Biotech Co. Ltd.

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