The present study was designed to define how dietary fat type regulates body adiposity in dietary obesity-susceptible (DOS) Sprague–Dawley (SD) rats. Eighty-three SD rats received a purified diet containing 50 g maize oil (MO)/kg for 3 weeks and then thirty-nine of the rats, designated as the DOS rats, were allotted to diets containing 160 g MO (DOS-MO), beef tallow (DOS-BT) or fish oil (DOS-FO)/kg for 9 weeks. As a result of the experiment, the DOS-FO rats had significantly (P<0·05) reduced weight gain and abdominal and epididymal fat-pad mass than the DOS-MO and DOS-BT rats. Serum leptin level was also significantly (P<0·05) lower in the DOS-FO rats; however, hypothalamic leptin receptor (a and b) mRNA and neuropeptide Y expressions were not altered by dietary fat sources. A lower acetyl-CoA carboxylase mRNA expression in the liver was observed in the DOS-FO group, whereas hepatic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ mRNA and protein expressions were markedly elevated in the DOS-FO group compared with those in the other groups. We did not observe differences in acetyl-CoA carboxylase and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-γ expressions in epididymal fat of the DOS rats consuming MO, BT or FO. It is concluded from our present observations that dietary fat type, especially that rich in FO, plays a potential role in down-regulation of adiposity by altering hepatic lipogenic genes, rather than feeding behaviour, in the DOS-SD rats.