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Who'd Like Four Rats?

Aug 18, 2007
Once, in the name of science, I let my younger son buy four rats. The rats were for a science project and he agreed to take them back to the pet store IMMEDIATELY after the project was finished.

In spite of this agreement, I wanted to return the rats the next day - or as soon as I caught them. Finally I did; and in spite of looking like I'd finished last in the rat race, I felt sorry for them. I told them it could be worse. They could have been breakfast for a boa constrictor.

The project's hypothesis was a high-fat diet increases cholesterol. Two rats were fed a high-fat diet. The other two were fed a low-fat diet approved by the National Heart Association.

During the six-week project I learned as much as my son. The most important thing I learned was cholesterol needs a PR person.

Who knew the body makes its own cholesterol. Cholesterol is the body's mortar for building strong cell membranes and nerve cells - particularly in the brain. Hopefully a lack of cholesterol in my brain wasn't the reason I hadn't known that.

I also learned cholesterol insulates nerve fibers - a fact I greatly appreciated as the foster mother of four rats.

Cholesterol's PR person could also publicize the fact the body has 1500-1800 mg of cholesterol, but only 200-800 mg comes from food.

That's the good news. The bad news is exercise and not eating sugar are the best ways to control cholesterol. It can't be controlled by a time out.

Near the end of the project, however, I was the one who needed a PR person. I had needlessly eliminated peanut butter as an after-school snack because I hadn't known cholesterol was only in animal products.

Needless to say, I immediately tried to make amends by buying jars of both crunchy and smooth peanut butter, as well as peanut butter with swirls of grape jelly.

After six weeks and three blood tests, the project was completed and there were three conclusions. One, there wasn't a major difference in the cholesterol levels of the rats. Two, the healthy-diet rats had grown more than the rats that were fed M&M's, Twinkies and Coke. In fact, the M&M's, Twinkies and Coke probably explained why my son hadn't grown at all in six weeks. Three, two male rats on a low-fat diet can produce twelve babies.
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KNIGHT PIERCE HIRST takes humorous looks at life.
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