Red Yeast Rice Supplements Likely Damaged This Woman's Liver

Live Science | 3/26/2019 | Staff
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Natural supplements may seem benign, but as highlighted in a new case report, that's not always the case. A woman in Michigan developed sudden liver damage after taking a red yeast rice supplement, doctors reported.

The 64-year-old woman had recently been to the doctor and was told she had high cholesterol levels. But she was hesitant to start taking statins — the common drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol. So instead, she turned to a supplement called red yeast rice, a type of fermented rice that's marketed to lower cholesterol.

Patients - Doctors - Yeast - Rice - Compound

However, many patients and doctors may not be aware that red yeast rice can naturally contain a compound called monacolin K, which is identical to the active ingredient in the statin drug lovastatin, the report said. Red yeast rice supplements with monacolin K come with the same risks as drugs containing lovastatin, which can include liver damage.

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Battery - Tests - Liver - Biopsy - Woman

After a battery of tests, including a liver biopsy, the woman was diagnosed with "acute drug-induced liver injury," or liver damage due to a drug or supplement. In this case, red yeast rice supplements were the most likely cause of the woman's illness, given the sudden onset of her symptoms and her recent use of the supplement, according to the report, published today (March 25) in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

The woman's case prompted the doctors who treated her to issue a warning about the potential harm of red yeast rice supplements.

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"Physicians and patients should be made aware that red yeast rice is not a harmless supplement, and those choosing to use it should watch for symptoms of hepatotoxicity [liver damage]," the authors, from Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, wrote in their report.

The woman also reported drinking two...
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