In a 9-week study seventy-six healthy adult volunteers with an average age of 44 (sd 11) years, with baseline plasma total cholesterol levels below 8 mmol/l, received in a balanced, double-blind, crossover design, a total of three different table spreads for personal use. Two spreads were fortified either with free (non-esterified) vegetable-oil sterols, mainly from soyabean oil (31 g sterol equivalents/kg; 0·8 g/d) or sheanut-oil sterols (133 g sterol equivalents/kg; 3·3 g/d). One spread was not fortified (control). Average intake of spread was 25 g/d for 3 weeks. None of the spreads induced changes in blood clinical chemistry or haematology. Plasma total- and LDL-cholesterol concentrations were statistically significantly reduced by 3·8% and 6% (both 0·19 mmol/l) respectively, for the spread enriched with free soyabean-oil sterols compared with the control spread. The spread enriched with sheanut-oil sterols did not lower plasma total- and LDL-cholesterol levels. None of the plant-sterol-enriched spreads affected plasma HDL-cholesterol concentrations. Plasma-lipid-standardized concentrations of α- plus β-carotene were not statistically significantly affected by the soyabean-oil sterol spread in contrast to lipid-standardized plasma lycopene levels which showed a statistically significant decrease (9·5%). These findings indicate that a daily intake of free soyabean-oil sterols as low as 0·8 g added to a spread is effective in lowering blood total- and LDL-cholesterol levels with limited effects on blood carotenoid levels. The lowering in total- and LDL-cholesterol blood levels due to consumption of the vegetable-oil-sterol-enriched spread may be helpful in reducing the risk of CHD for the population.