I’ve had a number of patients ask me whether it’s okay to use red yeast rice to lower their cholesterol levels. There actually has been a good deal of controversy over red yeast rice, as it once contained a natural form of Lovastatin, which is also used in prescription statins. So you might not even be able to find red yeast rice which contains this ingredient. However, even without this ingredient it still might be effective in reducing cholesterol levels.
However, you want to be careful when using red yeast rice, as even though it’s a natural product, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t any risks associated with taking it. Just as is the case with statins, taking red yeast rice to lower cholesterol can actually affect your thyroid health.
Cholesterol Is Important For Proper Thyroid Health
Even though many people have a negative perception of cholesterol, the truth is that cholesterol is extremely important for proper thyroid health. The reason for this is because cholesterol is the precursor for both the steroid hormones and the adrenal hormones. So while you of course don’t want to have too high of a cholesterol level, if the levels are too low then this can lead to a deficiency in progesterone, testosterone, and cortisol, as well as other hormones which are essential for proper thyroid health.
So what cholesterol level is considered to be too high? Most medical doctors will recommend for their patients to have a cholesterol level below 200, and some will actually recommend a cholesterol level below 180. The truth is that in most cases, having a cholesterol level between 200 and 250 isn’t something to be too concerned about. And this just isn’t my opinion, as the research supports this. You’ll no doubt be told that having high levels can increase your risk of developing heart disease and strokes. Once again, having extremely high cholesterol levels can lead to health issues, but the same can be said with very low levels. In fact, many people who take red yeast rice or statins are doing themselves more harm than good.
But why do so many medical doctors recommend for their patients to take cholesterol-lowering medication such as statins? There are essentially two reasons:
1. They don’t know any better. This obviously shouldn’t be the case with the training and experience that most medical doctors have, but the truth is, they don’t seem to pay much attention to the physiology of the body in many cases. This of course isn’t just true with regards to lowering cholesterol, but in other areas as well. In hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, the solution in the eyes of many medical doctors is to obliterate the thyroid gland, even when the symptoms aren’t too severe. With hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, synthetic thyroid hormone is almost always recommended. Similarly, for high cholesterol, most medical doctors will recommend statin for someone with “high” cholesterol levels.
This doesn’t mean that some people can’t benefit from taking statins. When someone has a very high cholesterol level, then perhaps giving that person statins on a temporary basis isn’t a bad idea. The problem is that many doctors don’t do anything to address the cause behind the high cholesterol problem.
2. The influence of the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry. Of course the more statins are sold, the more money the drug industry makes. It should come as no surprise then that the drug industry would want medical doctors to recommend statins to everyone with high cholesterol levels. While it may seem like common sense to recommend statins, when you consider that in most cases high cholesterol levels are caused by lifestyle factors (and not a deficiency of cholesterol-lowering medication), the primary goal should be to have the person modify these lifestyle factors.
Once again, I’m not suggesting that statins are never necessary. I realize that lifestyle factors aren’t the only factor responsible for high cholesterol levels. Plus, if someone has extremely high cholesterol levels, even if it is due to lifestyle factors it might be necessary for them to take statins or red yeast rice on a temporary basis. So I’m not going to argue that some people might benefit from taking statins or red yeast rice, although I definitely think statins are overused, and in some people will affect the production of progesterone and/or other hormones which can in turn affect thyroid health.
In summary, while you don’t want your cholesterol levels to be too high, having too low of a cholesterol level can affect the production of certain hormones, which in turn can affect your thyroid health. So while some people may benefit from taking red yeast rice or statins, many people really don’t need to lower their cholesterol. And many who do need to do this can accomplish this by eating better and exercising regularly.