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November 5, 1973

A Good Word for Cholesterol

JAMA. 1973;226(6):661. doi:10.1001/jama.1973.03230060039012

Cholesterol has been for some considerable time a dietary "no-no"—a restricted item in the "prudent diet" of the American Heart Association. Even Coburn,1 who valiantly defended the maligned egg, made no attempt to vindicate cholesterol. Basing his conclusions on clinical and experimental data, Coburn contended that a high incidence of rheumatic fever and its recurrences was associated with a low consumption of eggs in childhood and that dietary supplements of egg yolk reduced these recurrences. However, he attributed the prophylactic effects of the egg yolk not to cholesterol, but to hypothetical antiallergic substances.

Must we then conclude that cholesterol is totally devoid of redeeming qualities, that the dietary villain can never be transformed into a metabolic hero? Wannamaker2 suggests that the conclusion would be premature. Cholesterol present in the skin, he submits, may yet prove to be a factor in the puzzling insusceptibility to rheumatic fever of patients