While it is well established that the fatty acid composition of dietary fat is important in determining plasma lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations, the effects of changing the absolute quantities of the individual fatty acids are less clear. In the present study Golden Syrian hamsters were fed on isoenergetic, low cholesterol (0·05 g/kg) diets containing 100, 150 or 200 g added fat/kg. This consisted of triolein (TO) alone, or equal proportions of TO and either trimyristin (TM), tripalmitin (TP) or tristearin (TS). Each trial also included a control group fed on a diet containing 50g TO/kg. As the mass of TO in the diet increased, plasma VLDL-cholesterol concentrations rose. The TM-rich diets produced a concentration-dependent increase in total plasma cholesterol which was a result of significant increases in both VLDL and HDL levels. The TP-rich diets increased plasma LDL- and HDL-cholesterol levels in a concentration-dependent manner. TS-containing diets did not increase the cholesterol content of any of the major lipoprotein fractions. Hepatic LDL-receptor mRNA concentrations were significantly decreased in animals fed on TP, while apolipoprotein B mRNA concentrations were significantly increased. Thus, on a low-cholesterol diet, increasing the absolute amount of dietary palmitic acid increases LDL-cholesterol more than either myristic or stearic acid. These effects on lipoprotein metabolism may be exerted through specific modulation of the expression of the LDL receptor and apolipoprotein B genes.