Final Perspective

Cholesterol has played a distinguished role in the history of chemistry, medicine, physiology, and pathology. But, unlike any other biomolecule, cholesterol has also taken center stage as a cultural entity. In most nations, regardless of scientific training, people think about cholesterol when they shop for food, plan their diets, and make lifestyle choices. There is a large food supplement industry that promotes products based on claims to lower cholesterol. One positive outcome of the cultural presence of cholesterol has been a high level of public education in the area of lipid metabolism—millions of people know the difference between LDL and HDL. This level of public sophistication in details of biochemistry is unprecedented and demonstrates that scientific literacy in other fields is also possible and achievable. During the past 30 years, people in manyWestern nations have adopted healthier diets and lifestyles, leading to a dramatic drop in the rate of coronary heart disease.