The food you eat determines the quality of your life. It affects your appearance, may prevent some diseases or cause others, gives you the energy to move around, can immobilize you through obesity, and may ultimately kill you.
What is meant by diet?
Diet is what people eat and drink; it also covers the regimens used in treating disorders such as diabetes, and the methods advocated by dietitians (and others less well informed) for controlling obesity.
This last usage has become so much a part of a commonplace conversation that many people are inclined to equate diet with slimming.
The ordinary daily diet is made up of the three main constituents of food, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, with small amounts of mineral substances, and vitamins and water.
- Carbohydrates are present in many foods, but particularly in jams and preserves, bread, rice, oatmeal, and other cereals, raisins, dates, and currants, and sugar itself. When they are eaten, all carbohydrates are converted into simple sugar, glucose, fructose, and galactose, which are absorbed from the intestine into the bloodstream and thus travel to the body’s cells.
- The fats come largely from butter, margarine, cooking fats, and vegetable oils, meat (especially bacon), fish, and dairy products. They are emulsified like milk before being absorbed into the blood in the form of glycerides and substances termed fatty acids.
- Proteins are the stuff of life. On being digested, they are ultimately reduced to amino acids. Meats, poultry, fish, eggs are the commonest animal sources of protein; it is also derived from peas and beans, nuts, cereals, and, to a lesser extent, green vegetables and potatoes.
- Minerals, obtained from a variety of different foods and water, play essential parts in the processes of metabolism but they do not contribute any energy. Minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and fluorine are needed for teeth and bone; sulfur, zinc, copper, and iron go into the formation of tissues, organs, and blood cells. Sodium and potassium are needed to keep the water and salts in the cells, tissues, and body fluids properly balanced.
- Vitamins fill vital roles in the chemistry of life and in effect protect people from “deficiency diseases” like scurvy, rickets, and beriberi. Most vitamins are obtained from animal and vegetable sources outside the body, but some can be formed, e.g., cholesterol and related substances are converted into vitamin D in the skin by the action of ultraviolet light, so exposure to plenty of sunshine reduces the need for dietary vitamin D.
What is a good diet?
A satisfactory diet is a palatable and balanced mixture of foodstuffs which enables metabolism to proceed normally while supplying enough energy to make possible one’s routine way of life.
Desirable proportions for the three main components, energy requirements for different occupations, and advisable daily allowance of vitamins have all been drawn up, but it is not necessary to take these charts and weighing-scales to your table.
All that is required to feed well and wisely is to get even a rough idea of where carbohydrates, proteins, and fats are to be found, and to know the main sources of the vitamins, after which the minerals will largely look after themselves.
Energy-producing carbohydrates appear at breakfast in the form of cereals, marmalade, toast, and sugar; the need for protein is met by bacon, eggs, bread, and milk; and for fats by bacon, milk, butter or margarine.
At lunch and dinner, such foods as beef, mutton, fish, poultry, and the cheeses offer a wide choice of body-building protein and the fruits and vegetables that traditionally go with good eating provide most of the vitamins we need.
For the chief aim in eating well should be to enjoy yourself, while having just enough but not one scrap more.
When ordinary people enjoy good health, does it mean they are already on a balanced diet, even though they may know nothing about nutrition? If so, how does this happen?
Most people in the U.S. are properly nourished unless they are overeating. People’s feeding habits are a combination of habit, availability of food, and education. Neither instinct nor appetite is much help in directing them toward what are the best foods, or away from those likely to do them harm.
They can starve in the midst of plenty if the food available is unfamiliar, or if they don’t know how to cook or prepare it. There was a case of the manager of a large department store who lunched every day at his club yet turned up in the hospital with well-advanced scurvy. He simply had no taste for vitamin C – never ate fruit or green vegetables, and the potatoes he was having at that time of the year were lacking in vitamin C.
Similarly, primitive societies often put a taboo on the foods they need most so that their children are liable to suffer from protein deficiency.
On the other hand, people whose intestines are sensitive to gluten (which is the protein in wheat or rye flour) go on eating it, so that they remain invalids all their lives.
They have no instinctive aversion to the food that does them harm.
Most Americans are well-nourished because, by a good chance, most foods are a mixture of things. As long as people eat a good variety of foods, they are likely to be well-nourished.
Do dietary needs change so that people require more or less of the various components at different ages?
Yes. Our nutritional needs are determined by growth and development, body-size and physical activity, and the special demands of childbirth.
Women need more food to meet the requirements of the unborn child and to provide extra energy to move their heavier bodies. But if, as often happens, a young woman leaves an active job to sit down at home, her calorie requirements may be actually less.
To provide for growing bones, she should drink more milk, while iron and folic acid are commonly prescribed in the later months of pregnancy to avert anemia.
In cases of breast-feeding, an extra 600 calories a day are required to provide milk of 480 calorie value.
Young children’s tissues are growing apace so they need a relatively high proportion of protein and other nutrients to calories.
Milk is, therefore, an ideal food, supplying necessary calcium. Parents should make sure children drink school milk when it is provided for them.
Children also need proportionately more vitamins, so it is usual to give them extra vitamin C in fruit juice, and vitamins A and D in fish-liver oil or concentrates.
It is difficult to provide all the iron small children need and so it is best to see that their diet is as mixed as possible.
Normally, both boys and girls develop greater appetites at this stage of their lives, because they are physically active and subject to a spurt in growth (especially boys).
To meet these demands they should be given more of their normal food and extra milk and avoid the temptation of sweets, which are likely to lead to bad teeth and obesity.
Old people’s diets should be no different from that of other adults unless their way of life becomes so inactive that the calorie intake should be reduced. Where they live alone they may find the task of shopping and cooking so irksome that they fail to provide themselves with a fully nutritious diet.
Social isolates, depressed people, and bereaved husbands or wives often become so careless of their own welfare that they become undernourished.
The remedy is to ensure that they have at least one square meal a day and that they take to eating fresh fruit and vegetables. Persons suspected of lacking specific vitamins can top up by taking them in tablet form. Vitamin D can be acquired by exposing the skin to sunlight.
As people age, the bones grow more porous so that old people, especially women, are particularly likely to break the thigh-bone, or a rib through laughing. Extra dietary calcium alone does not seem to make any difference, but if you add capsules of vitamin D it may reduce the risk.
Is it possible to exist and remain well on a vegetarian diet?
Yes, but with difficulty. Strict vegetarianism, as practiced by Vegans, entails avoiding all animal products and living on nothing more than cereals, roots, nuts, peas and beans, vegetables, and fruits.
So they must eat a large bulk of food in order to get enough protein. Even then, some of the proteins in cereals are a poor source of such amino acids as lysine and threonine, so it is necessary to include foods like peas and beans which contain more of these essential ingredients.
Vegans have to be careful that they get enough vitamin B12 because lack of it can cause anemia and disease of the spinal cord; they can, of course, avoid these difficulties by going Lacto-vegetarian and including eggs and dairy products in their diet.
Presumably, human milk is the ideal diet for babies. What other arguments are there in favor of breastfeeding, and how valid are they?
Actually, there is no proof that human milk is ideal, and there is evidence from research in Sweden that babies reared on cow’s milk preparations can be as healthy in every respect as those fed at the breast.
It may even happen that an infant proves to be allergic to the proteins in its own mother’s milk, but can drink cow’s or goat’s milk with impunity.
The main advantages of breast-feeding are that it is a safe and foolproof way of supplying sterile milk, and it provides part of the tender, loving care on which babies seem to flourish.
Breast-feeding should, however, be supplemented about the fifth month by mixed food. It should not be used at all if the milk it yields is insufficient, or if it is unsatisfactory to either of the nursing couple – mother and child can fight at the breast as well as be happy.
Whatever the state of the mother’s nutrition, her milk usually contains enough of the main nutrients, but it may be necessary to give the baby extra vitamins. More vitamin D may be necessary if the baby is not getting enough sunshine.
Colored babies may need more sunshine than white ones because their pigment shields them from the ultra-violet rays.
Mothers used to regard plump babies as bonny babies and show them off with pride. Now it seems healthier for a baby to be lean. What are the facts?
Babies should be firm rather than podgy, pink rather than pudding-white, and active and bouncing rather than vegetables.
They certainly should not be obese, and it was all wrong that plump babies used once to carry off the prizes at baby shows. Perhaps that was because the weight was an easy thing to measure – as in judging vegetables.
Diabetic women tend to have larger babies than average, so when abnormally big babies are born nowadays the mother is commonly checked for hidden diabetes.
Fat babies tend to walk later because of the extra weight they have to carry, and there is an impression among some nutritionists that a fat baby may continue as a fat child, who becomes an obese adult.
Are the foundations of obesity laid down in infancy or childhood by eating habits started at that time?
It is hard to say whether the so-called appestat in the brain, that regulates the intake of food, is set as early as in infancy.
Certainly, a fat baby is less active, and by taking less exercise than necessary, it is more inclined to grow into a podgy-looking toddler. This could be the result of the environment – the fat baby is often a spoiled baby, who goes on to become a spoiled child, and ultimately an undisciplined adult.
There is also a strong impression that where parents eat heartily and perhaps excessively, the children are encouraged to do the same.
Would it be possible to produce a physically superior human being by regulating his or her diet when a baby?
Food intake does affect growth and development. You could retard the development of a baby by underfeeding him, and if this was continued through childhood you would produce a sub-standard adult. In the same way, the well-fed baby and child grow into a well-developed adult.
But no form of feeding has yet been discovered that would bring about a radical improvement and produce a superman.
Is there any danger of giving children too great a taste for alcohol by allowing them to have wine with the family at meals?
We know of no scientific evidence on this important question, and the experiences or impressions of individuals or small numbers of enlightened parents can be misleading.
The purpose of allowing – but not necessarily encouraging – children to take a small amount of wine, perhaps diluted with water, is to make them so accustomed to it that they do not find the novelty of alcohol too fascinating when they are given greater freedom later on. They grow to accept it as a natural part of the meal.
Against that theory, however, should be set the fact that in some of the wine-growing Mediterranean countries, where children often drink from an early age, the incidence of chronic alcoholism is known to have reached alarming proportions.
What is the minimum diet necessary for survival?
It depends on the original state of nutrition, whether work is being done, and on the temperature. In general, the fatter you are the longer you are likely to survive if cut off from food; for this reason, women tend to last longer than men.
The most pressing need is to replace the water that we lose daily through the skin, lungs, and excreta from the 40 quarts in the adult body. Under the most favorable conditions for survival, this calls for about a quart of water a day.
Actual food requirements would be based on your basal metabolic rate (BMR), i.e., the energy required to keep the body just ticking over, with additions if work is being done.
A diet yielding 1500 – 1600 calories, equivalent to 1lb of rice a day, maybe enough to maintain the BMR.
An initially well-nourished person can lose up to a quarter of his or her original weight and survive, for once this amount has been lost, some readjustments occur so that the body now needs less.
You would not necessarily feel well on this ration, but you could survive. The mind, too, might be affected and take longer to recover than the body.
How long could a person survive without any food or water?
Reports of experiences in the past indicate that you could possibly survive 6 weeks or more without food, provided you had enough water. But the likely survival time without food and water is only about 3 days.
Within certain limits of temperature and physical work – say, sitting quietly trapped in a pot-hole, you might survive longer.
What appears to be the longest recorded hunger strike was that of a group of Irish patriots who fasted 94 days in Cork prison in 1920.
We all know the bad news, but is there anything good to be said about alcohol?
Yes, lots. As soon as alcohol enters the mouth it starts a flow of saliva and gastric juice, and in that way can both stimulate the appetite and aid digestion.
Taken in the form of champagne, or as brandy and soda, it can relieve vomiting and flatulence, while stronger drink will often relieve colic and diarrhea, and restore the circulation in cases of fainting.
Alcohol is not a stimulant but a depressant of the central nervous system and this property can bring confidence to the shy and self-critical.
Above all, alcohol is an extremely effective tranquilizer, and as such is invaluable for soothing the troubled mind. A drink at bedtime is often the best way to encourage wayward sleep and may do less harm than some sleeping pills.
Is coffee bad for the heart?
There has recently been some evidence from population surveys suggesting that the use of coffee may be associated with raised levels of cholesterol in the blood and an increased tendency to coronary artery disease. But it has long been known that, like the excessive use of alcohol and tobacco, drinking large amounts of beverages containing caffeine, such as tea and coffee, may excite the heart and give extra beats.
These extrasystoles, as they are called, are often of no importance, but if they disturb you, seek the opinion of a doctor.
Is there any real risk of anyone getting goiter through a lack of iodine in drinking water?
Essential iodine is found in a wide range of foods as well as in drinking water. Lack of iodine in the drinking water is not of special importance.
In some places, especially in segregated mountain communities, the water, the soil, the local crops, and livestock may all be deficient in iodine, and people living there may develop goiter – an enlargement of the thyroid gland.
In areas with a mild deficiency of iodine, the use of iodized table salt, which would correct the deficiency, is recommended.
How far do nutrition and inheritance affect physique?
There is a tendency to attribute fatness largely to diet, and height to the genetic inheritance, but the parts played by nature and nurture are not yet sorted out and often overlap.
Japanese whose families migrated to the U.S. are now growing as tall as Europeans, and even their compatriots in Japan are increasing in height, thanks to better food.
In the same way, improved nutrition is accepted as one of the reasons why London schoolchildren are taller than they used to be.
In the mixed bag quoted here, pygmies are pygmies for purely genetic reasons. That businessman could well be overweight because Bavarians are reported to be drinking more beer than ever, and presumably eating more of the bratwurst sausages that go with it.
The Chinese peasant is probably lean because of hard work and insufficient rice, and the pot-belly of the tropical jungle native is most likely due to the enlargement of the liver caused by one of the tropical diseases.
Tooth decay is appallingly prevalent in children: how far is faulty nutrition to blame, and what should be done about it?
There is no convincing evidence that a lack of calcium or vitamins A or D is responsible. Almost certainly the main cause is the habit of eating between meals sticky cakes and such sweets as toffee, which stick to the teeth and produce acids that erode the enamel.
Indeed the enamel can also be dissolved by acids present in some soft drinks, especially if a child develops a taste for drinking undiluted fruit juice.
The presence of half to one part of fluoride per million in the drinking water unquestionably reduces the incidence of dental decay, so this should be made universal.
It would also help if children were given their sweets with their meals, not between them. If they then followed the meal with an apple, or by cleaning their teeth, it would help to prevent tooth decay and also play a useful part in teaching them to think of sweets as part of the whole intake.
I suffer from morning sickness during pregnancy. Can you advise what I should avoid and yet eat enough for two?
The exact reason why about 50 percent of pregnant women experience nausea and perhaps vomiting, from the fifth or sixth week of pregnancy onward, is still not known.
Such devices as eating a dry cracker before rising, or cutting down on the intake of fluid, are worth trying, along with other traditional remedies.
There is something to be said in favor of frequent, small, high-carbohydrate meals and ensuring adequate vitamin intake.
It is obviously wise to avoid smells and tastes that nauseate, but as the bouts usually end by noon, there is no difficulty in eating enough for two between then and bedtime.
My eldest boy’s face looks a bit like those photos of the moon. How true is it that eating chocolate and other fatty foods encourage acne?
According to a spokesman of the British Institute of Dermatology, opinion is still divided over the possible effects of diet on acne.
Some skin specialists adhere to the traditional teaching that this condition is aggravated by eating too much chocolate and other sweets, cocoa, cheeses, and cream pastries.
Others can find no connection with diet at all. They recall that the items under suspicion have never been proved to be a cause.
Moreover, acne affects many people who are not partial to these foods and often persists when former eaters of them give them up.
The panel answering these questions suggests that the old idea was possibly based on the coincidence that boys and girls tend to eat more of everything at puberty when acne commonly makes its first appearance. All are agreed that the fundamental cause is a disturbance of the body’s hormonal balance. Any circumstances that increase the number of male hormones, in girls as well as in boys or men, may be associated with acne.
How many calories do we need? And can they be obtained equally well from carbohydrates, fats, or proteins?
The energy requirements of adults depend on the sex, size, and composition of the body, physical activity, and the surrounding environment and climate. Within reasonable limits, the big three (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) are interchangeable as a source of calories.
In a Danish experiment, a man lived on nothing but potatoes for a year and remained very fit and healthy. Other people keep well on meat alone, although meat contains fat as well as protein.
In the U.K. people eat something like 48 percent carbohydrate, 40 percent fat, and 12 percent protein. Generally speaking, the make-up of national diets throughout the world is pretty much the same, except where they are short of protein.
In the U.S., and to a lesser extent, in Britain, there has been a reduction in the calorie needs during the past 25 years or so, because of increased mechanization (including lifts, labor-saving machines, and the spread of private cars) and central heating.
Does the body need substantially different diets in hot and cold weather?
The answer is no. It’s true that people are inclined to eat rather different things during the winter, but not as a matter of nutritional need. In cold weather, people keep warm not by eating more but by wearing warmer clothing. A large proportion of people’s calorie needs is to give them energy for their recreations, but there is a tendency to cut down on these pastimes during very cold – and very hot – weather.
What should be done nutritionally about a mild degree of anemia, due to lack of iron, in women?
That mild anemia of this kind can affect females is particularly unfortunate, seeing that women’s need for iron is double that of men because of iron’s role in pregnancy.
Slight anemia may not perhaps matter much in a sedentary life, but even mild anemia can reduce one’s capacity for hard work, will increase the danger from hemorrhage, and leave a woman less capable of meeting physical strain – the commonest of which occurs in childbirth.
So, wherever anemia appears to be causing symptoms in individual cases, medical advice regarding increased intake of iron should be followed.
If I leave my milk on the doorstep in the sun it goes off. What makes this happen, and is it connected with the effect of thunder on milk?
It’s quite true that some of the shorter waves in sunlight can penetrate ordinary glass and destroy both vitamin C, and more importantly, the riboflavin in milk.
Riboflavin is highly sensitive to light, so a lot of it could be destroyed by strong sunlight within an hour. As a result, the milk changes color.
Sunlight also alters the proteins in milk, so that it gets a “burnt feather” or medicinal flavor.
These undesirable effects can be cut down or avoided by putting milk in amber-colored bottles or waxed paper cartons.
If the milk turns in a thunderstorm, it is because of the high temperature – hot humid weather produces both the thunder-storm and the bad milk.
Does cooking alter the nutritional value of food and is this affected by canning, freezing, and the like?
The preparation of food usually alters its nutritional value, but there is not much difference between the effects of cooking, canning, freezing, or dehydrating.
Tinned foods lose some of their vitamins through cooking before being canned, but there is no deterioration afterward.
Modern methods of freezing or accelerated freeze-drying tend to produce a product which may be less destructive to some vitamins than canning or older methods of drying goods.
But probably more damage is caused by the housewife in cooking than by the manufacturer.
Some of the B vitamins in meat are destroyed by high temperatures in cooking; and although other vitamins become more concentrated through shrinkage in the size of the meat, the net result is a loss. Roasting, frying, and grilling are more destructive than stewing.
Vitamin C leaks into the water when fruits and vegetables are boiled and the loss can be substantial. They should be cooked as quickly as possible, with little water. Food should not be kept warm for long periods on a hot plate; this is the worst thing you can do. Nor should you add baking soda to green vegetables to preserve the color.
Is it simply an old wives’ tale that salt is good for the blood? Or that eating fish improves the brain? Or that oysters are an aphrodisiac?
Both the sodium and chloride of which salt is composed play important roles in maintaining the constancy of the body fluids, but sodium chloride is not specifically beneficial to the blood.
Nor is fish especially good for the brain – a notion that may have arisen from the fact that both fish and brain tissues are rich in phosphorus.
This is, however, a very superficial similarity, and eating more phosphorus will not make it go to the brain – it is more likely to go to the bones.
Finally, neither oysters nor any other foods have an aphrodisiac effect beyond what they might achieve by suggestion.
Is there anything intelligent to be said in favor of eating naturally grown foods? And is the amount of DDT in our bodies doing any harm?
The answer to the first question is no, not from the nutritional aspect. Such work as has been done suggests that there’s very little difference in the nutritional value of barley-fed beef and beef fed on grass, or between poultry raised by battery production and free-range hens.
There is some difference between eggs produced by hens in different environments, but the difference is only slight.
Regarding the second question: DDT is not a serious threat.
People who are occupationally exposed to it, who spray it on, or who are involved in the manufacture of DDT get covered in it. They get levels of DDT in their fat of several hundred parts per million, yet the work that has been done so far suggests that there have been no ill effects.
Most people have only a few parts per million.
Of course, there might be a risk if the fat in those workers containing large amounts of DDT were suddenly mobilized. When this was done with animals, some toxic effects were seen. This suggests that if people with a lot of DDT in their body fat want to reduce, they should do it slowly.
Is there anything definite known about the influence of the emotions on appetite?
The effects of emotions on appetite are complex and often unpredictable. Fear, worry, and preoccupation with troublesome problems all tend to inhibit appetite, as does excitement, whether pleasurable or otherwise.
Anxiety, which robs some people of appetite, causes others to eat inordinately; the same is true of depression.
Boredom explains why passengers on board ship, patients in hospital wards, and many middle-aged housewives stuff themselves, while rejection and a feeling of insecurity are the reasons some unhappy children over-eat. They turn to food as a substitute for love.
Is the person who over-salts his food or over-sugars his tea instinctively doing this to meet some nutritional needs?
The over-use of salt is entirely a matter of habit and idiosyncrasy.
Sugar is quite another matter. First of all, it can make things taste highly palatable, and may have pleasurable associations dating back to childhood.
Apart from that, sugar is a rich source of energy, so some people may be using it as a substitute for other foods.
Whatever the reason for its over-use, the habit may become so strong that it is extremely difficult to break.
Can taking large amounts of sugar cause diabetes?
This is an open question. Diabetes has been produced experimentally in cats by giving them continuous intravenous injections of glucose which exhausts the supply of insulin. When a human being eats a lot of sugar, however, this does not produce a sustained rise in the level of glucose in the blood, so it could not have the effect seen in cats. However, excess sugar consumption may cause obesity, and there is some association between obesity and diabetes in middle-aged people. The precise inter-relationships are still obscure.
Is it true that the food habits of migraine victims can trigger off the attacks?
Yes. In susceptible people, prolonged hunger as well as certain everyday foods and alcoholic drinks may be to blame.
Among the culpable foods are chocolate, milk, cream, cheese, fish, coffee, oranges and other citrus fruits.
Foods containing what are called amines, i.e., compounds of ammonia, have also been proved to provoke attacks in the vulnerable, but difficulties may also arise from allergy or hypersensitivity to certain foods.
Though it is presumably the alcohol in alcoholic drinks that is to blame for the attacks they cause, sherry, port, and other wines are especially likely to bring on migraines.
What are the principles of a cholesterol-lowering diet, and would this be likely to protect a normal person from getting a coronary?
Most of the cholesterol in the blood is synthesized from the fats eaten, the rest comes directly from the daily diet. To lower the blood cholesterol level it is necessary to eat fewer calories and to cut down on such foods as eggs, whose yolks are rich in cholesterol.
The other important change is to replace the animal fats on and in meats and dairy products by other fats, largely of vegetable origin.
In practice, this means the replacement of butter by soft kinds of margarine, and the use of sunflower-seed oil, corn oil, and nut oils for cooking and salads. However unlikely this is to appeal to some people, such a regime must be for life.
This diet can effectively lower blood cholesterol. But whether it would protect against atherosclerosis is quite another matter. None of the scientists researching this subject is so naive as to imagine that, whatever the relationship between cholesterol and coronary disease, it is a simple one.
The diet has been tried by a few groups of normal men, as well as others who have already had one coronary. All the evidence suggests that it does not prevent a second seizure.
Inconclusive results have been obtained from some of the studies of normal men, but there are signs that lowering blood cholesterol may reduce the incidence of heart disease in middle-aged men.
At present, the U.S. health authorities are hesitating over the enormous cost and difficulties of a massive controlled study which could give a definite answer in a few years.
Meanwhile, some U.K. cardiologists conversant with the scientific developments are inclined to advise inquirers that conversion to a low-cholesterol diet is unlikely to do any harm – and might do some good.
Is diet a cause of coronary thrombosis?
First, let it be understood that the cause of atherosclerosis, the fatty degeneration of the arteries that has made coronary artery disease the great single killer of the day, is still unknown.
There is, however, an enormous amount of evidence suggesting that several factors are involved.
So far, the chief of these seems to be overweight, lack of exercise, cigarette smoking, a family history of coronaries, an increased amount of fatty substance, cholesterol, in the blood, and perhaps even exposure to undue mental stress.
Even if the evidence is largely circumstantial, this is another reason for preventing or correcting obesity and the physical inactivity linked with it.
An inborn tendency toward high blood cholesterol is associated with early death from heart disease – often in childhood – so doctors now treat children who are born with this baneful inheritance by making them go through life on a cholesterol-lowering diet in the hope that it will avert disaster.