Cholesterol is a normal constituent of
the blood. It has a proper function to perform in the body's
chemical processes. It is the excess of cholesterol in the blood
that seems to be associated with arteriosclerosis. But it is
probably not correct to say that cholesterol causes arteriosclerosis.
We know that the level of cholesterol in
the blood is influenced by the diet. When a person's diet
includes excess amounts of saturated fats such as contained in eggs,
meat, milk and cheese, blood cholesterol tends to rise. But when
the fat in a person's diet consists mostly of the polyunsaturated
type, such as that in vegetable fats like peanut oil, corn oil,
soybean oil and safflower oil, cholesterol content of the blood tends
to decline if it has risen above normal.
Everyone still agrees that high levels
of cholesterol in the blood signal an increased risk of heart attack.
It has been established that some of the cholesterol measured in the
standard blood test is not bad; it may even be good because it is in a
form that leads to elimination from the body. So, even though
total cholesterol is usually a reliable indication of increased risk,
a better indicator is the proportion of bad versus good cholesterol.
Although there is some evidence that low-fat diets do not always
improve the blood cholesterol, almost all experts still agree that
such diets benefit some people, especially those with a strong family
history of premature heart disease, those with established heart
disease, and those who are obese. But it must be admitted that
there are others who do not need to restrict dietary fats or