Quack Medicine: Peking Duck is better for your Heart than 'Statins'

11 June 2008

The ingredient used to colour Peking duck can cut the risk of dying from heart disease by a third and cancer by two-thirds, scientists say.

The ingredient used to colour Peking Duck can cut the risk of dying from heart disease by a third and cancer by two thirds, scientists say. Researchers looking at red yeast rice said the benefits of the Chinese food colouring even seemed to outstrip those of “Statins' - the much vaunted cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The rice is fermented with the red yeast Monascus purpureus, which has been used in China for thousands of years as a food preservative, colourant and seasoning, and herbal medicine.

Describing the effects as ' profound', they said extract of the fermented rice could play an important part in improving heart health. The red colouring used in Peking duck was found to prevent heart disease and cancer. They also found that taking the red yeast rice as a supplement nearly halves the risk of a second heart attack and reduces the odds of cardiac surgery.

For this study, scientists tracked heart attack survivors at more than 60 hospitals in China. They focused mainly on heart disease but cancer deaths were also recorded. Each day, patients took capsules of a partially purified extract of the red yeast rice preparation “Xuezhikang' (XZK) or an inactive dummy supplement. Researchers compared the progress of the groups over five years and found that taking the XKZ supplements dramatically increased the survival rates from heart problems and cancer. Those taking part experienced few side-effects from these supplements, the American Journal Of Cardiology reports.

Researcher Dr David Capuzzi, of Thomas Jefferson University in Pennsylvania, said the effects could not be explained by the 'statin' content of the extract alone. “My hope is that XZK becomes an important therapeutic agent to treat cardiovascular disorders and to aid in the prevention of disease, whether someone has had a heart attack or not”.

The researchers do not yet know how the extract works and cautioned against self-medication, saying supplements available at health food stores were an unknown quantity. (Daily Mail Online 10th June 2008)

Red yeast rice lowers LDL cholesterol in patients who cannot tolerate statins, reports Annals of Internal Medicine.

Some 60 patients who had discontinued statins owing to myalgia were
randomized to receive red yeast rice supplements (1800 mg twice daily) or
placebo for 24 weeks. (Red yeast rice contains naturally occurring
lovastatin.) All patients also participated in a 12-week lifestyle change
program focused on nutrition, exercise, and relaxation techniques.

Mean LDL cholesterol levels at 12 and 24 weeks fell by 27% and 21%
respectively, with red yeast rice, and by 6% and 9%, respectively, with
placebo. The differences between groups were statistically significant. The
supplement appeared safe in terms of new-onset muscle pain, as well as
creatinine phosphokinase and liver enzyme levels.

The authors acknowledge the study's limitations, including the small sample
size and short duration. Still, they conclude that their intervention "may
provide a therapeutic lipid-lowering option for the large cohort of
patients" with statin-associated myalgia.

: Herbal Medicine

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