Chinese remedy seen beneficial after heart attack

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The traditional Chinese dietary supplement called Xuezhikang (XZK), a derivative of red yeast rice, reduces the likelihood of heart problems after a heart attack, a scientific study shows.

“Chinese red yeast rice is a botanical product that has been used in China for many centuries for the treatment of circulatory disorders,” study co-author Dr. David M. Capuzzi, at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, noted in correspondence with Reuters Health. “The particular preparation used in the study has been grown under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, so that its components are likely reproducible.”

For their study, Capuzzi and his colleagues recruited 3986 men and 884 women who had survived a heart attack and had high cholesterol levels. They were assigned to take a capsule of XZK or placebo twice daily while other cholesterol-lowering agents were discontinued. The average treatment duration was 4.5 years.

According to the team’s report, published in the American Journal of Cardiology, 1.9 percent of the subjects given XZK had a non-fatal heart attack compared with 4.9 percent of those given the placebo.

Similarly, 2.8 percent versus 4.2 percent of people in the two groups, respectively, needed a procedure to clear blocked coronary arteries.

Total mortality was lower in XZK group than the placebo group (5.2 percent versus 7.7 percent), the researchers report.

Capuzzi emphasized that “the results of this study do not apply to red rice yeast supplements sold over-the-counter in health food stores or the like, and I do not recommend that people use such over-the-counter preparations since these have not been tested for safety and effectiveness, and the purity and stability of the product components are unknown.”

He advises heart patients to “continue to follow their physician’s directions and use currently available medications at this time when clinically indicated.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Cardiology, June 15, 2008.