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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Peking ducks are going to increase in prices ?

Cholesterol buster
By VIVIENNE PAL

The latest findings show that the humble red yeast rice extract can effectively lower blood cholesterol.
WHO would have thought there was anything mildly beneficial to health in a meal as gloriously laden with calories as the Peking duck?
Apparently so, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph recently. The report mentioned that the extract of Chinese red yeast rice which gives the Peking duck its red colour, may be good for the heart.
The proprietary extract, also called xuezhikang (XZK), was found to reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or having another heart attack in a study conducted recently among 5,000 Chinese adults who had previously had a heart attack.

(From left) The raw form of red yeast rice, the processed and powdered form of red yeast rice and red yeast rice capsules. – Pics by RICKY LAI

The study was conducted by Dr Zongliang Lu and colleagues from the Chinese Coronary Secondary Prevention Study Group. It was funded by the Chinese National Scientific and Technological Projects and WBL Peking University Biotech Co Ltd. The findings were published in the June 15 issue of the American Journal of Cardiology.
Red yeast rice, in general, is simply rice that has been cultured with Monascus fungus. Its benefits are vast: it has been used for many centuries in China as a food preservative, food colouring, spice, as well as in rice wine.
A staple in China, Japan and in Asian communities in the United States, red yeast rice is also known for its medicinal values, having been used as far back as the Tang Dynasty to invigorate the body, aid digestion and remove blood blockages.
The extract also contains lovastatin, one of the original drugs proven to improve cholesterol profiles and decrease the risk of heart attack, besides the other compounds whose effects have not been fully tested.

The extract of Chinese red yeast rice which gives the Peking duck its red colour, may be good for the heart.

Sounds like good news for a hefty chunk of our (unhealthy) population.
'Cholesterol is the main cause of heart attacks. About 100,000 Malaysians have been hospitalised for heart-related ailments, of which 12,000 deaths have been recorded thus far,' reveals cardiologist Dr David Quek, adding that high blood cholesterol and coronary heart disease is a growing problem in Malaysia.
'Approximately 53.5% of the population or 6.4 million people between the ages of 25 and 64 have high cholesterol, which translates to one in two adults from the age group.'
According to Quek, aside from lifestyle adjustments, treatment for high blood cholesterol include going on a low fat/carb diet or a Mediterranean diet, and medication which includes taking lipid lowering drugs such as statins, as it has proven effective in reducing about 25% to 33% of all heart-related illnesses in the last 30 years. Nonetheless the side effects of statins are still feared by many.

Dr David Quek: 'Approximately 53.5% of the population or 6.4 million people between the ages of 25 and 64 have high cholesterol.'

The recent study on XZK conducted by the Chinese Coronary Secondary Prevention Study Group rendered very encouraging findings, says Dr Quek. It showed that XZK reduced the likelihood of heart problems after a heart attack.
Researchers had enrolled 4, 870 Chinese adults aged 70 years or younger, who had experienced a heart attack in the previous five years and were treated at one of 65 hospitals in China. The subjects only included those with low-density lipoprotein in their blood.
The participants were put on a controlled diet for four weeks and taken off medications that they were using to control their cholesterol. After this period, their cholesterol levels were measured and they were randomly assigned to receive two XZK capsules (containing 5mg to 6.4mg of lovastatin plus other compounds) or two placebo capsules daily over the next four years.
Researchers were mainly interested in major coronary events, such as non-fatal heart attacks or deaths from heart diseases.
Follow-up with the subjects revealed that only 5.7% of those in the XZK group experienced a second heart attack, compared with 10.4% in the placebo group, translating to an absolute reduction of 4.7% in major cardiovascular events, or a relative reduction of 45% of events compared with the placebo.
XZK also reduced bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol levels, but more importantly, researchers found that XZK reduced cardiovascular mortality by some 30%, while reducing the need for heart surgery or angioplasty by one-third.
However, it was important to note that the various components of the XZK preparation in the research requires further studies for its consistency, stability and individual pharmacologic properties.
'This shows that traditional medicine can also be trusted to work just as well as modern medicine,' says Dr Quek.
Dr Quek does not discount that XZK worked because it contained lovastatin. However, he strongly believes that 'there has to be other non-statin components within XZK which helped to reduce cholesterol levels,' as the improvement in the patients exceeded far beyond what would be expected from lovastatin alone.
Despite being safe for consumption, XZK could cause mild headache, abdominal bloating and gas. It should not be given to pregnant or breastfeeding women, or women who are trying to get pregnant. Those with liver diseases should also refrain from taking XZK.
Although the results of the study are encouraging, it is advisable to take only the purified form of Chinese red yeast rice. XZK may be one of the best tested nutritional products which makes use of its traditional properties, and when purified and extracted in a consistent manner, can lower blood cholesterol levels among post-heart attack patients.
'Hopefully there would be a greater openness and awareness on traditional medicines,' says Steward Cross Pte Ltd managing director Grace Chen, echoing Dr Quek.
She added that a capsule version of XZK known as Hypocol is available in pharmacies in the country.

(We received this article via an e-mail.)

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