Chinese red yeast really works – Cholestin (Pharmanex)

What it is

Chinese red yeast and an ancient remedy, Cholestin naturally contains a family of compounds (the most abundant of which is lovastatin) that inhibit the key enzyme (HMG-CoA reductase) responsible for producing cholesterol in the body. “Many people in Asia eat between 14 and 55 grams (g) of red yeast as a food every day,” says Dr. Heber. “They sprinkle it on top of tofu for breakfast.”

What research shows

“This stuff really works,” says David Kritchevsky, PhD, cholesterol expert at the Wistar Institute and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Some 20 studies have been done on thousands of people in China using red yeast products similar to Cholestin. The Chinese who used red yeast daily had a 25- to 40-point drop in average cholesterol when they also ate their usual healthy Chinese diet and exercised. The first US study on Cholestin in humans, conducted recently by Dr. Heber at UCLA, controlled for the effects of diet using a placebo. Complete study results were not available at press time, but Dr. Heber told us that the benefits seen in his patients are clearly beyond what would be seen with diet and exercise alone. Cholestin also contains unsaturated fatty acids that appear to lower triglyceride levels while increasing HDL (the good kind of cholesterol).


Lovastatin is the generic name of the common prescription drug Mevacor, proven to reduce high LDL levels, or bad cholesterol. At press time, Pharmanex was countering a charge by the Food and Drug Administration that Cholestin should be regulated as a drug rather than sold as a supplement. Pharmanex claims that Cholestin is a similar but distinctly different compound.


Cholestin’s recommended dose is two 600 milligram (mg) capsules twice a day. A month’s supply costs $30 to $40.

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