Statins - How micro-organisms can lower cholesterol
Monascus purpureus (M. albidus, M. ruber, M. pilosus, M. araneosus, M. anka, M. rubiginosus, M. major, and M. vini; Chinese: hóng qu jùn, lit. "red yeast") is a species of mold that is purple-red in color. It is also known by the names ang-khak rice mold, maize (corn) silage mold, and rice kernel discoloration.
This fungus (referred to as a mold when in groups of cells) is industrially important for its use, in the production of red yeast rice, and other fermented foods produced in Asian markets.
Since the discovery of Monascus species being able to produce cholesterol-lowering statins, research into the medical implications and its' market has obviously begun.
Red yeast rice, (referred to by several other brand and colloquial names such as, red fermented rice, red kojic rice, red koji rice, beni-koji, âng-chau, Hypocol, XueZhiKang, or ang-kak), is a purple-red fermented rice, obtaining its colour from being cultivated with the mold Monascus purpureus. Red yeast rice is sold as a pasteurized jarred product, as a ground powder, and as a grain. It used to be used as a food colouring, and is also used in herbal medicine.
Red yeast rice is easily produced by cultivating Monascus purpureus on polished rice. The rice is first soaked in water and then inoculated with the fungus (M. purpureus). The mixture is allowed to ferment for a few days at room temperature, until the rice turns a purple-red colour. The resulting mixture can then be pasteurized (to kill or inhibit further micro-organism growth), dried and powdered, or left as a paste, and sold. The rice can also be prepared similar to white rice and consumed.
In ancient Chinese medicine, red yeast rice has been documented for use as a rememedy for digestive disorders and "blood blockages." This property, may be attributed to the statins produced as a by-product of the fungal metabolism. Statins lower cholesterol in the human, and the medicinal importance can therefore, be appreciated.
Red yeast rice when produced using particular strains of Monascus purpureus accumulate small amounts of the HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor lovastatin which is also known as mevinolin, a naturally-occurring statin (cholesterol lowering substance). It is sold as an OTC (over the counter) dietary supplement for the reduction of cholesterol. There is evidence for its effect in lowering blood levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and TG (triglyceride levels).
When purchasing red yeast rice, and any related products for the sole purpose of acquiring statins, it is best to choose those with pre-analyzed measurements of percentage statin content. This will give you some indication of the amount of statins you are consuming.