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Red Yeast Rice

More than half of North Americans have blood cholesterol of 200 mg per dl and higher, a level that is considered risky. Nearly 20% have levels higher than 240 mg per dl; a level considered dangerous and requiring medical attention.

Various medications are available to treat high cholesterol, but they're expensive and have varying side effects. One natural supplement, red yeast rice, has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels without side effects, and at a significantly lower cost.

Red yeast rice is the fermented product of rice on which red yeast has been grown. It has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine to treat indigestion, to improve blood circulation, and for promoting healthy spleen and stomach function.

In 1977, Japanese professor Akira Endo discovered that red yeast rice produced a compound that was able to normalize cholesterol production in the body. He named the metabolite monacolin-K. Monacolin-K is a beneficial, natural constituent that is chemically similar to lovastatin, the active ingredient in the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor.

Red yeast rice is also thought to support healthy blood pressure levels, balance blood sugar, improve digestion, promote normal cell growth, and slow down the aging process.

Eighty percent of the body's cholesterol is manufactured in the liver. Red yeast rice works by supporting the body's regulation of cholesterol production in the liver.

More than 20 clinical trials have documented the cholesterol-lowering effects of red yeast rice. In a Chinese study, patients with total cholesterol levels greater than or equal to 230 mg per dl were divided into two groups. Patients in the treatment group were given 600 mg of red yeast rice twice per day (1200 mg per day). After eight weeks of treatment, the patients in the treatment group had an average reduction in total cholesterol of 22.7%, versus an average reduction of 7% in the control group. LDL levels were reduced by 30.9%, also significantly greater than that in the control group.

In a 12-week, double-blind study conducted at UCLA, healthy subjects with hyperlipidemia received either 2.4 grams per day of red yeast rice or a placebo. Both groups were instructed to consume a diet providing 30% of calories from fat, with less than 10% from saturated fat, and less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. After 12 weeks, those who received red yeast rice showed a significant reduction in total cholesterol levels, LDL levels, and triacylglycerol levels. The control group showed no changes.

Red yeast rice is generally considered safe, and has a long history of use without toxic side effects.

Reference: Wang, J., et al. Multicenter clinical trial of the serum lipid-lowering effects of a monascus purpureus (honchu) preparation from traditional Chinese medicine. Curr Ther Responsibility 1997, 58:12, 964-78.

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Soy Isoflavones Lower Cholesterol In Younger Women

Astudy at the University of Minnesota has shown that soy isoflavones lowered cholesterol in healthy, premenopausal women who had normal blood fat levels.

The study's authors said their research was unique. "The first to show that soy isoflavones lower plasma LDL (bad) cholesterol concentrations" in younger women with normal cholesterol levels. Previous studies had focused on test subjects with high cholesterol levels.

The university scientists conducting the study concluded that, over a lifetime, the effects of soy can "contribute to a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease in healthy people who consume soy over many years."

The new study was conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska, and the University of Rochester in New York.

In the tests, women between the ages of 18 and 35 were given varying amounts of soy isoflavones daily. The subjects were recruited from the University of Minnesota campus and surrounding areas. The women were described as relatively sedentary, but with stable body weights, and who consumed regular diets that were low in soy and fiber.

The women received three types of doses of soy protein isolates in the form of beverage powder, with isoflavone content ranging from 10 to 128.7 mg daily.

The high isoflavone diet lowered LDL cholesterol by as much as 10% in one part of the trial period, with "trends toward decreased LDL cholesterol with increased isoflavone consumption" during other phases of the test subjects' menstrual cycles.

"This is the first study to address the effects of isoflavone consumption on plasma lipids (fats) during carefully defined phases of the menstrual cycle," the study reported.

The researchers said that the soy effects "could slow the development of atherosclerosis and subsequent risk of coronary heart disease even in women with normal levels of cholesterol."

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2000.

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Vitamin E Improves Memory

Taking Vitamin E may be good for your memory. That's the conclusion of a U.S. government study analyzed by researchers at the Regenstrief Institute for Health Care in Indianapolis, IN. The study included blood-nutrient analyses of a cross section of 4,809 Americans older than 70. People were divided into four groups according to serum vitamin E levels and given a simple memory test.

People with the lowest vitamin E levels had almost three times the rate of poor memory than those with the highest levels (11% versus 4%).

The authors do not speculate how vitamin E may affect memory; however, it is believed to protect against atherosclerosis, which can clog cerebral arteries.

Reference: American Journal of Epidemiology, December 1999.

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Zinc For Pregnancy-Induced Anemia

Anemia is one of the most common medical conditions among pregnant women. Zinc and iron are both required to build red blood cells, and deficiencies often occur concurrently. A Japanese study shows that supplementing with both minerals is more effective than either alone and that some prenatal anemia is due to a deficiency of zinc, not iron.

Researchers at Kumamota University School of Medicine placed 38 pregnant women into three groups for eight weeks: zinc, iron, and both supplements. Taking either zinc or iron alone did not change the average RBC counts, but the combination did.

Because minerals compete for absorption, it is not surprising that women with iron deficiencies worsened when receiving zinc supplements and vice versa.

Previous surveys show pregnant women's diets are low in zinc. Food sources of zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes, and nuts. Iron is also found in meats as well as green leafy vegetables, beans and peas, and nuts and seeds.

Reference: Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 1999.

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American Ginseng Helps Control Diabetes

According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, taking ginseng before or after a meal lowers blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, Ph.D., from the University of Toronto, tested the effects of American ginseng (Panas quinque-folious) on ten non-diabetic adults and nine adults with type two diabetes. Each subject took ginseng, either 40 minutes before or after a meal, or a placebo. After eating, blood sugar levels were measured every 15 to 30 minutes for up to two hours.

Compared with the placebo, ginseng significantly lowered blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. In subjects without diabetes, ginseng only lowered blood sugar levels when taken 40 minutes before a meal.

Vuksan stated that ginseng may have a role in preventing diabetes in healthy people. However, he recommended that diabetics take the herb with meals to prevent a hypoglycemic reaction.

Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine; 2000; 160:1009-13.

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Carotenoids Help Lung Function In Elderly

Carotenoids, including beta carotene, may contribute to normal lung function during aging, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Wageningen Agricultural University, Netherlands, measured blood levels of multiple carotenoids-alpha carotene, beta carotene, lycopene, cryptoxanthin, zeaxanthin, and lutein-in 528 subjects aged between 65 and 85 years old. The subjects' lung function was also measured with standard tests known as forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) and forced vital capacity (FVC).

Results showed that subjects with high blood levels of beta carotene and alpha carotene had significantly better lung function compared with subjects who had low levels of these nutrients.

Subjects with high blood levels of alpha carotene, beta carotene, and lycopene, had better lung function as measured by FEV1.

Reference: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 2000; 161:790-5.

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Research is adding evidence that Vitamin C-from either food or supplements-can reduce the chances of developing gallstones and other types of gall bladder diseases.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, studied the data of 13,000 subjects participating in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Results showed that women consuming the greatest amount of vitamin C had a 39% lower risk of developing gallstones.

It was concluded that vitamin C is required to activate cholesterol7 a-hydroxylase, an enzyme that breaks down cholesterol into bile acids. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the enzyme's activity by 15 times.

Reference: Archives of Internal Medicine, 2000; 160:931-6.

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Written by: EcoMall

Disclaimer: These statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, and is for educational purposes only. For any serious illness or health related disorders please consult your physician.


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