What it is. Derived from yeast grown on rice, this supplement is a dietary staple in several Asian countries. Its use for gastric problems and stomach health was first documented in China in 800 A.D.

Benefits. Substances in red yeast rice called monacolins may help lower cholesterol. Similar monacolin derivatives are used to make statin drugs.

News. In a large study of patients who had recently suffered heart attacks, researchers found that red yeast rice extract reduced the risk of repeat attack by 45 percent and cardiovascular mortality by one-third. Likewise, research last July suggested that a combination of lifestyle changes and supplementing with fish oil and red yeast rice may reduce LDL cholesterol by 42 percent. The research, however, did not indicate which component was responsible for lowering patients' cholesterol.

How to take it*. Adults may take 1,200 mg of concentrated red yeast rice powder in capsules twice a day with food. Don't take red yeast rice if you are taking immunosuppressants or lovastatin, or if you have liver disease.

Side effects. Red yeast rice occasionally causes dizziness, gas, and heartburn. It may also increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.

*Talk with your health care provider before starting any supplement regimen.