Fish oil plus red yeast rice match statins for cholesterol cuts

July 23, 2008

 A combination of fish oils, red yeast rice and other lifestyle changes reduced cholesterol levels by the same amount as a daily statin pill, according to new research. Levels of LDL-cholesterol were reduced by 42.4 per cent following consumption of the fish oil and red yeast rice combination, compared to reductions of 39.6 per cent in the statin group, according to results of a randomized trial published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings. "These results are intriguing and show a potential benefit of an alternative, or naturopathic, approach to a common medical condition," said David Becker, MD, from the University of Pennsylvania Health System.   
     Becker and co-workers recruited 74 people with hypercholesterolemia and randomly assigned them to receive a daily statin dose of 40mg a day of simvastatin or the fish oil (EPA 2106 mg/d, DHA 1680 mg/d) and red yeast rice. The red yeast rice contained a total Monacolin content of 5.3 mg, with 2.53 mg in the form of Monacolin K (lovastatin). Red yeast rice is the product of yeast grown on rice. It is a dietary staple in some Asian countries, and reportedly contains several compounds that inhibit cholesterol production.
     After 12 weeks of intervention, the researchers found statistically significant LDL reductions in both groups, but no difference between the groups. In addition to the LDL cuts, the fish oil/ red yeast rice combination also produced significant reductions in triglyceride levels of 29 per cent, compared to a non-significant nine per cent reduction in the statin group. "Lifestyle changes combined with ingestion of red yeast rice and fish oil reduced LDL-C in proportions similar to standard therapy with simvastatin," wrote the researchers. "Pending confirmation in larger trials, this multifactorial, alternative approach to lipid lowering has promise for a subset of patients unwilling or unable to take statins," they added. "Red yeast rice contains naturally occurring lovastatin and nine different substances called monacolins that could inhibit 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase," wrote Becker and co-workers.
"The dose of RYR in our study (2.4-3.6 g/d) was equivalent to a daily lovastatin dose of 10 to 15 mg, less than the established therapeutic dose (20-40 mg)."
The reductions in triglyceride levels observed in the study were put down to the fish oil part of the combination. "The triglyceride -lowering effects of fish oil have been established and could be responsible for the results observed in the current study," they added. The study appears in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2008, Volume 83, Issue 7, Pages 758-764

Curcumin may offer protection against diabetes

At the 90th annual meeting of the Endocrine Society, held in San Francisco June 15 to 18, 2008, research conducted at Columbia University Medical Center was presented which showed a protective effect for curcumin, a compound found in the spice turmeric, against the development of diabetes in two mouse models of diabetes and obesity. The research is scheduled for publication in the journal Endocrinology.
For their study, Drew Tortoriello, MD, who is an endocrinologist and researcher at Columbia’s Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, in collaboration with Stuart Weisberg, MD, PhD, and Rudolph Leibel, MD, used male mice fed high fat diets to induce obesity and genetically obese female leptin-deficient mice. Normal, lean mice fed low fat diets were used as controls. The animals were divided to receive diets containing a curcumin extract or no curcumin for five weeks.
Mice given doses of curcumin showed less susceptibility to the development of diabetes, based on blood glucose levels, and glucose and insulin tolerance test results. The animals additionally experienced a small reduction in body fat and weight, even when calorie intake was the same or higher than mice that did not receive curcumin. Obese mice that received curcumin also had less inflammation in liver and fatty tissue compared with animals that did not receive the compound.
Inflammation is believed to play a role in the onset of diabetes type 2 as well as obesity. The researchers suggest that curcumin helps prevent diabetes by reducing the inflammation that occurs in obesity. By suppressing the number and activity of inflammatory cytokines produced by immune cells in fatty tissue, which can damage the heart and insulin-producing pancreatic islands as well as increase muscle and liver insulin resistance, curcumin may help reduce some of obesity’s adverse effects.