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Monascus - The Lipid Regulator

Monasus purpureus, commonly known as red yeast, is a species of mould that is in purplish-red in colour. Monascus fermented rice, which popularly known as Red yeast rice, is the fermented product of cooked non-glutinous rice on which red yeast (Monascus purpureus) has been grown.

Red yeast rice has been called in several other names in different languages: Ang-kak/Ankak rice (Hokkien, Indonesian, Filipino), 红曲米 (Chinese), Beni-Koji (Japanese).

For centuries, traditional red yeast rice has been used extensively in Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Philippines as traditional medicine for digestive and vascular health. Its pharmaceutical function has been stated in the ancient Chinese pharmacopeia, Ben Cao Gang Mu composed by Shi-Zhen Li (1518–1593 A.D.). Moreover, red yeast rice is customarily used as food preservative for meat and fish, main ingredients for red rice wine, and natural food colourant and flovouring due to its intense purple red color and aromatic fragrance.

Nutrients & Bioactive Compounds in Monascus

The bioactive ingredients of Monascus are significantly affected by fermentation conditions. Critical parameters including strains of Monascus, types of rice substrates, temperature and moisture dominate the quality of Monascus.

The notable bioactive compounds in Monascus include:

  • Monacolins including Monacolin K, indicated as 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors

  • Dihydromonacolins

  • γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

  • Amino acid derivatives including Tryptophan, Threonine, 2-(p-tolyl)-ethylamine (TEA)

  • Dimerumic acid

  • Natural red pigments: Rubropunctamine and Monascorubramine

  • Natural orange pigments: Rubropunctatin and Monascorubrin

  • Natural yellow pigments: Monascin and Ankaflavin

Benefits of DXN Monascus

1) Lowers blood cholesterol & triglycerides

Among the bioactive compounds found in Monascus, monacolins are well known for their pharmacological effects to control hyperlipidemia (high blood lipids). Among the monacolins, monacolin K is considered the most efficacious compound to lower cholesterol in the blood plasma. It is also named as lovastatin, mevinolin, and mevacor. Like statins, monacolin K acts by inhibiting the enzyme hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) which is responsible for synthesis of cholesterol. In this way, monacolin K contributes to regulating cholesterol levels, reducing the amount of cholesterol synthesized by the body.

Several studies showed that in 8 weeks period, Monascus therapy demonstrated reduced levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by 27.7%, total cholesterol by 21.5%, triglycerides by 15.8% and apolipoprotein B by 26.0%.

In addition, findings showed that Monascus was able to increase total antioxidant status and repress oxidation of blood lipids hence significantly inhibit formation of atherosclerotic plaque in the heart aorta. This could greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks.

2) Anti-hypertensive effects

GABA and acetylcholine chloride are the major compounds in Monascus that can lower blood pressure. Acetylcholine acts on a muscarinic receptor of endothelial cells in blood vessels to stimulate the release of a substance that causes relaxation of vascular smooth muscle, resulting in systemic reduction of blood pressure. In addition, GABA has been reported to act as a major inhibitory neurotransmitter in the sympathetic nervous system and plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure and cardiovascular function.

3) Anti-obesity effects

There are several reports on Monascus pigments exhibiting biological activities related to lipid metabolism. Tryptophan derivatives in Monascus has been shown to inhibit function of lipase (digestive enzymes for fats), which results in reduced fat absorption in the intestine. On the other hand, the TEA derivatives in Monascus was shown to be capable of decreasing adipogenesis (formation of adipose tissue). This could subsequently decrease fat storage in adipose tissue and help with overall fat loss in the body.

4) Potent antioxidant & Liver-protective effects

Dimerumic acid in Monascus has been reported to show anti-oxidative capacity, has great cleaning ability of free radicals, reduces reactive oxygen species such as superoxide anion (˙O2− ) and hydroxyl radical (˙OH) activities. Hence, Monascus has been identified as beneficial to protect liver from further injury including progressing into liver cirrhosis.

5) Anti-inflammatory & Anti-cancer effects

In recent years, many studies have investigated anti-cancer ability of Monascus, including colon, breast, lung, skin, liver, oral and prostate cancers, and many reports have discussed that monacolin K and the pigments in Monascus may be the major functional compounds against carcinoma. Monacolin K and ankaflavin in Monascus have shown anti-tumor-initiating effects on cancer progression, by enhancing anti-proliferative and apoptotic (programmed cell death) activities of cancer cells. Therefore, application of Monascus may serve as a non-toxic natural chemopreventive or anti-cancer agents in conjunction with conventional treatment.

In summary, Monascus provides various purported health benefits, which include:

  • Lowers blood cholesterol and triglycerides level

  • Regulates blood pressure

  • Prevents formation of atherosclerotic plaque

  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases

  • Prevents obesity & helps with overall body fat loss

  • Potent antioxidant

  • Anti-inflammatory effects

  • Liver-protecting effects

  • Potent anti-tumour & anti-cancer activity, particularly colon, breast, lung, skin, oral & prostate cancers


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