The present study involved a comparative analysis of the effects of purified flaxseed lignans, secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) and its aglycone metabolite (SECO), in hyperlipidaemic rats. For hypercholesterolaemia, female Wistars (six rats per group) were fed a standard or 1 % cholesterol diet and orally administered 0, 3 or 6 mg SDG/kg or 0, 1·6 or 3·2 mg SECO/kg body weight once daily for 4 weeks. Hypertriacylglycerolaemia was induced in male Sprague–Dawley rats (ten rats per group) by supplementing tap water with 10 % fructose. These rats were orally administered 0, 3 or 6 mg SDG/kg body weight once daily for 2 weeks. Fasting blood samples (12 h) were collected predose and at the end of the dosing period for serum lipid analyses. Rats were killed and livers rapidly excised and sectioned for lipid, mRNA and histological analyses. Chronic administration of equimolar amounts of SDG and SECO caused similar dose-dependent reductions in rate of body-weight gain and in serum total and LDL-cholesterol levels and hepatic lipid accumulation. SDG and SECO failed to alter hepatic gene expression of commonly reported regulatory targets of lipid homeostasis. SDG had no effect on serum TAG, NEFA, phospholipids and rate of weight gain in 10 % fructose-supplemented rats. In conclusion, our data suggest that the lignan component of flaxseed contributes to the hypocholesterolaemic effects of flaxseed consumption observed in humans. Future studies plan to identify the biochemical mechanism(s) through which flaxseed lignans exert their beneficial effects and the lignan form(s) responsible.