To establish the effectiveness of a new phytosterol-containing spread derived from rice bran oil (RBO), a randomised, double-blind, cross-over human clinical trial was conducted over 12 weeks. A total of eighty mildly hypercholesterolaemic (total blood cholesterol level ≥ 5 and ≤ 7·5 mmol/l with a serum TAG level of ≤ 4·5 mmol/l) individuals were randomised into two groups (n 40). Group 1 consumed spread only daily for 4 weeks. They were randomised to consume 20 g RBO spread (RBOS), 20 g standard spread (SS) or 20 g phytosterol-enriched spread (PS). After a 4-week period, individuals changed to the next randomised treatment until all three treatments had been consumed. Group 2 consumed spread plus oil daily for 4 weeks. They consumed 20 g RBOS plus 30 ml RBO, 20 g SS plus 30 ml sunflower oil or 20 g RBOS. Blood samples were collected for the analysis of lipid parameters, and 3 d diet records were collected. Compared with SS, RBOS significantly reduced total cholesterol by 2·2 % (P = 0·045), total cholesterol:HDL by 4·1 % (P = 0·005) and LDL-cholesterol by 3·5 % (P = 0·016), but was not as effective overall as PS, which reduced total cholesterol by 4·4 % (P = 0·001), total cholesterol:HDL by 3·4 % (P = 0·014) and LDL-cholesterol by 5·6 % (P = 0·001). In group 2, the addition of RBO to the RBOS produced no differences in cholesterol levels. These results confirm that RBOS is effective in lowering serum cholesterol when consumed as part of a normal diet.