Asked by Robyn, Port Washington, New York
I saw Dr. Gupta talking about red yeast rice. I want to try it but there are so many different kinds. How do you know which are the best brands with the best ingredients? I know many of the natural supplements put a lot of junk in the product.
I believe he said to take 600 mg twice a day. I take Wellbutrin and Klonopin. Will that interfere?
Diet and Fitness Expert
Dr. Melina Jampolis
Physician Nutrition Specialist
Hi Robyn. The question as to which supplements you can trust is an excellent one. Unfortunately, there is not a simple answer. In the United States, the supplement industry is very loosely regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
That agency mainly acts to ensure that products are made according to good manufacturing practices, which include potency, cleanliness, and stability, that ingredients are generally safe, and that companies are not making unsubstantiated claims about curing or treating disease.
The Federal Trade Commission also helps ensure that companies are not engaging in deceptive advertising practices, but advertising restrictions are easily circumvented with creative marketing and wording that implies a specific health benefit.
Because there is tremendous variability in manufacturing and quality control standards from company to company, choosing an effective product can be challenging. The best approach is probably to buy supplements from a pharmacy, health food store, qualified health care professional such as medical or naturopathic doctor, or from a large retail chain such as Whole Foods Market, which has very rigid standards for evaluating all supplements that its stores carry.
In addition, whenever possible look for the USP label on products. The U.S. Pharmacopeia is a nonprofit group that has set standards for many popular supplements. You may also want to visit the Web site http://www.consumerlab.com/, a private company that utilizes independent testing facilities to analyze the ingredient content of many vitamin and supplement products.
Red yeast rice, in particular, is a supplement that should be taken only under the supervision of a health-care professional. As with other supplements, just because a product is natural does not mean that it is completely safe and free of side effects in everyone. This supplement in particular requires some oversight by a health-care professional because it contains the same active compound as one of the popular cholesterol-lowering statin medications. While red yeast rice has no known drug interactions and fewer side effects than statins, it could theoretically interfere with other medications and should be avoided by women who are pregnant or nursing and people with severe liver or kidney disease.
Finally, as with any cholesterol-lowering medication or supplement, eating a heart healthy diet, getting regular exercise and weight loss when appropriate should always be the first step toward lowering cholesterol.
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