Red yeast rice is purple colored rice that has been fermented by red yeast, Monascus purpureus. In this process, the sugars of the rice are converted into a series of phenolic compounds, compounds that have at least one ringed structure in its core.
Polyphenolic compounds like plant sterols differ from human steroids by having four rings as its core while the human hormone has five. While they structurally differ in the number of ringed groups, they act very much the same as steroids in the body.
The library of compounds produced by the yeast during their fermentation include monacolins (polyketides), a phytosterol. Monocolins, particularly the K version or lovastatin, inhibits HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme needed in the conversion of Acetyl-CoA to mevalonate,
Red Yeast rice contains many phytosterols, one group of them are collectively known as monacolins, This is the group responsible for reducing cholesterol levels. Monaclonins are substances that inhibit cholesterol synthesis. One version, monacolin K, inhibits the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase needed to begin cholesterol synthesis.
Because of this activity, red yeast rice products with a high concentration of monacolins, were marketed as natural products that can lower cholesterol. Monaclonin K and lovastatin both block cholesterol synthesis. Since one is under its control as a drug, so is the other. Instead of complying with weak dietary supplement requirements, herbal extracts had to answer to the FDA department that regulates drugs When the FDA decided to regulate red yeast rice as a drug, it forced manufacturers to remove the lovastatin component thereby lowering the efficacy of the herb.
The net effect of FDA action was to repress a natural method to reduce cholesterol levels an promote the use of the more expensive and harmful pharmaceutical drug. Hence, supplements must have monaclonin K removed if it is to be sold. BizzaroWorld!
The production of cholesterol by the body depends on 25 reactions, each requiring a different enzyme. The mechanism monaclonin K follows to reduce cholesterol production is by blocking the conversion of acetyl CoA to mevalonate, the first step in the 25 needed for cholesterol synthesis.
Monaclonin K or lovastatin, is an inhibitor of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase. HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor drugs are called statins, they are prescription only drugs.
Monaclonin K or its pharmaceutical twin lovastatin, is regulated by the FDA. They belongs to a class of drugs known as statins. Statins are variations on the structure of monaclonin K.
The blockage of HMG-reductase unfortunately reduces the desirable HDL or healthy form as well as the lousy LDL. This is the mechanism by which statin drugs lower cholesterol levels.Red yeast rice extracts are natural cholesterol-lowering agents. Whether this activity is due soley to the monacolin K isolate, or due to a combination of monacolins, which I believe, is a question I have tried to answer with Natural libraries. With multiple versions of monaclonins in the rice, Nature balanced its own cure. The natural library reduced only the lousy or LDL faction while the stains reduced synthesis of both, a result that is clearly not as desirable.
By blocking the formation of all cholesterol, the body does maintain a healthier profile by lowering total cholesterol, that is something but it fails to anything about the ratio of healthy to lousy cholesterol (HDL vs. LDL) as I beleive the total profile of monacolins.