* THE RESEARCH Several small studies found that it can lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol by up to 31%, decrease your triglycerides by up to 34%, and raise your HDL (good) cholesterol by up to 20%. One of its compounds is also found in prescription statins; some experts say this supplement works like, and should be considered, a drug.

* SHOULD I TAKE IT? If you have slightly elevated cholesterol levels, good diet and exercise are the best approach, says Brent Bauer, MD, director of the complementary and integrative medicine program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. But red yeast rice may help, and you can try it safely if your doctor monitors you. (Dose: 1,200 mg, twice a day with a meal. However, it may cause muscle pain or weakness and should not be taken with grapefruit juice, cholesterol drugs, or antibiotics, or if you have normal cholesterol levels.)

* BOTTOM LINE It can inhibit cholesterol production, but if you have very high cholesterol, you may be better off taking drugs.

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