Beni-Koji (Red Yeast Rice)

Beni-koji, or red yeast rice, is a traditional Chinese dietary component known for its potential health benefits, particularly in lowering cholesterol levels. Produced by fermenting rice with the mold Monascus purpureus, it turns the rice red or reddish-purple. Recently, a health scare in Japan linked to supplements containing beni-koji has caused concern, leading to product recalls by Kobayashi Pharmaceutical after reports of illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths. Despite its health benefits, the safety and regulation of red yeast rice products remain contentious due to their variable content of active compounds like monacolins, and the presence of potentially harmful toxins such as citrinin. Clinical evidence suggests it can significantly lower LDL-cholesterol, but its safety over long periods and in certain populations (e.g., pregnant women, individuals with liver disease) is yet to be established. Moving forward, continuous monitoring and research into its long-term safety and efficacy are essential.

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