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Mol Cell Biochem. 2002 Apr;233(1-2):153-8.

Cholestin inhibits cholesterol synthesis and secretion in hepatic cells (HepG2).

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Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, China.


Hyperlipidemia is a well-known risk factor for atherosclerosis and statins are widely used to treat patients with elevated levels of lipids in their plasma. Notwithstanding the proven benefits of statin drugs on both primary and secondary prevention of heart disease, the high cost of statin treatment, in addition to possible side effects such as liver function abnormalities, may limit their widespread use. We conducted a study on a natural product as an alternative to statin treatment. Cholestin, a dietary supplement, is prepared from rice fermented with red yeast (Monascus purpureus), which has been shown to significantly decrease total cholesterol levels in hyperlipidemic subjects. Our objective was to determine the cellular effect of Cholestin on cholesterol synthesis in human hepatic cells (HepG2) and the mechanism by which it caused a change in lipid metabolism. Cholestin had a direct inhibitory effect on HMG-CoA reductase activity (78-69% of control). Cholesterol levels in HepG2 cells treated with Cholestin (25-100 microg/mL) were significantly reduced in a dose-dependent manner (81-45% of control, respectively). This reduction was associated with decreased synthesis and secretion of both unesterified cholesterol (54-31 and 33-14% of control, respectively) and cholesteryl ester (18-6 and 37-19% of control, respectively). These results indicate that one of the anti-hyperlipidemic actions of Cholestin is a consequence of an inhibitory effect on cholesterol biosynthesis in hepatic cells and provide the first documentation of a biomolecular action of red yeast rice.

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