Fermented red rice: warning, risk of liver and muscle injuries

Food Supplements: Fermented red rice used against high cholesterol can have the same side effects as statins.

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Nutritional Supplements: fermented red rice with the same risks as drugs? Likely. When you consider that fermented red rice is a supplement used against high cholesterol, could carry risks of liver and muscle injury like statins.

The cause would be in the monacolin K contained in the supplement, a molecule with a chemical structure identical to lovastatin, a statin used for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia.


The circle closes, therefore, around a natural product whose use must always and in any case be monitored.
A new study by the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Iss) - published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology - evaluates the safety profile of fermented red rice that is often used by people with high cholesterol intolerant to statins.

Statins are drugs prescribed to inhibit the synthesis of cholesterol and the research has investigated the risks of fermented rice through spontaneous reports of suspected adverse reactions received by the plant surveillance system coordinated by the ISS. From April 2002 to September 2015 out of a total of 1261 reports, 55 concerned rice-based supplements. The reported reactions consisted of myalgia (19), gastrointestinal reactions (12), liver damage (10), skin reactions (9), other types of reactions (5). The average age was 64, 70% were women; in 13 cases the reaction required hospitalization. What emerges from the study is that the risk profile of fermented red rice is similar to that of statins.

"It is desirable - the researchers conclude - that we continue to monitor the safety of food supplements and, more generally, of products defined as 'natural', in order to define their risk profile, so as to increase the knowledge of health professionals and consumers ".

The appeal of the ISS already follows other types of alarm. In 2013, the French Food Safety Agency (Anses), after receiving 25 reports of side effects affecting the muscles and liver, launched an appeal not to take red fermented rice supplements, especially by addressing pregnant and lactating women, to people over 70 and to large grapefruit consumers. Last year, Consumer Reports, the US Consumers' Association, identified 15 potentially dangerous supplement ingredients (risk of organ damage, cancer, and cardiac arrest), including fermented red rice.


Does this mean that supplements are not to be trusted either? No, rather it means that even for supplements, just like drugs, You should always consult your doctor first, which may also indicate the correct doses and the most suitable administration period.

Germana Carillo

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