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Cholesterol And Health

Some of the earliest clues about possible ill effects of cholesterol on human health came from the research of Russian biologist Nikolai Anitschow in the 1910s. Anitschow fed rabbits a diet high in cholesterol and found that the animals became particularly susceptible to circulatory disorders. Post-mortem studies of the animals found the presence of plaques (clumps) of cholesterol on their arterial walls.

Since Anitschow's original research, debate has raged over the relationship between cholesterol intake and circulatory disease, particular atherosclerosis (the blockage of coronary arteries with deposits of fatty material). Over time, it has become increasingly obvious that high serum cholesterol levels do have some association with such diseases. A particularly powerful study in forming this conclusion has been the on-going Framingham Study, conducted since 1948 by the National Heart Institute in the Massachusetts town that has given its name to the research. Among the recommendations evolving out of that study has been that a reduced intake of cholesterol in one's daily diet is one factor in reducing the risk of heart disease.

The cholesterol-heart disease puzzle is not completely solved. One of the remaining issues concerns the role of lipoproteins in the equation. Since cholesterol is not soluble in water, it is transported through the blood stream bound to molecules containing both fat and protein components, lipoproteins. These lipoproteins are of two kinds, high density lipoproteins (HDLs) and low density lipoproteins (LDLs). For some time, researchers have thought that LDL is particularly rich in cholesterol and, therefore, "bad," while HDL is low in cholesterol and, therefore, "good." While this analysis may be another step in the right direction, it still does not provide the final word on the role of cholesterol in the development of circulatory diseases.

See also Lipid; Nervous system.



Byrne, Kevin P. Understanding and Managing Cholesterol: A Guide for Wellness Professionals. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Books, 1991.


National Cholesterol Education Program. Second Report of the Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (Adult Treatment Panel II). Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Health, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 1993.

David E. Newton


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—A greenish yellow liquid secreted by the liver and stored in the gall bladder that aids in the digestion of fats and oils in the body.

Circulatory system

—The body system that circulates blood pumped by the heart through the blood vessels to the body tissues.


—A family of biochemical compounds soluble in many organic solvents, but not in water.


—A group of organic compounds that belong to the lipid family and that include many important biochemical compounds including the sex hormones, certain vitamins, and cholesterol.


—A chemical process by which some new substance is produced by reacting other substances with each other

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Chimaeras to ClusterCholesterol - History, Properties And Occurrence, Cholesterol In The Human Body, Cholesterol And Health