This short animated painting created for Scientific American tells the other half of the story about the natural chemical that the media loves to hate.
Text by Jeanne Garbarino
Images by Perrin Ireland
Video by Nick Navatta
Mention the word cholesterol in front of my grandmother and she’ll automatically clutch her chest and say a little prayer. It is because she, along with almost one-fifth of the American population over 20 years of age, is battling high blood cholesterol – a condition tightly linked to heart disease. As a means to try and curb these undoubtedly dangerous cholesterol levels, which are generally the result of a poor diet, various organizations such as the American Heart Association (AHA) have unleashed anti-cholesterol campaigns, ultimately demonizing this unknowing molecule.
Yes, when in excess, cholesterol can be very detrimental to your health and is often the culprit behind heart attacks and strokes. However, behind the seemingly dangerous exterior lies a molecule that is essential for human life.
Jeanne Garbarino is a mother of two young girls, aged 2 and 4. In her other (easier) gig, Jeanne is a postdoc at Rockefeller University in the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism. There, she studies how cholesterol moves inside of our cells and relates this information to human health and the development of cardiovascular disease. In addition to being a scientific researcher, Jeanne is a self-proclaimed scientist-communicator, often blogging about relevant scientific issues on her blog The Mother Geek, as well as co-organizing a monthly science discussion series, Science Online NYC (# SoNYC ), which is open to anyone who is interested about how science is conducted. You can find her tweeting as @ JeanneGarb or can follow The Mother Geek on Facebook.
Perrin Ireland is a graphic science journalist who currently serves as Science Storyteller at Alphachimp Studio, Inc. She uses art and narrative to facilitate scientists sharing their stories, and creates comics about the research process. You can find more of Perrin's work here, and follow her on Twitter at @experrinment.