The present study evaluated the effects of moderate intakes of myristic acid (MA), at 1·2% and 1·8% of total energy (TE), associated with a 0·9% TE intake of α-linolenic acid (ALA) on lipid and fatty acid profiles and red blood cell membrane fluidity. Twenty-nine monks without dyslipidaemia were enrolled in a 1-year nutritional study in which two experimental diets were tested for 3 months each: diet 1, MA 1·2% and ALA 0·9%; diet 2, MA 1·8% and ALA 0·9%. A control diet (MA 1·2%, ALA 0·4%) was given 3 months before diets 1 and 2. Thus, two different levels of MA (1·2%, 1·8%) and ALA (0·4%, 0·9%) were tested. Intakes of other fatty acids were at recommended levels. Samples were obtained on completion of all three diets. For fluidity analysis, the red blood cells were labelled with 16-doxylstearate and the probe incorporated the membrane where relaxation-correlation time was calculated. Diet 1 was associated with a decrease in total cholesterol, in LDL-cholesterol, in triacylglycerols and in the ratio of total to HDL-cholesterol; ALA and EPA levels were increased in both phospholipids and cholesterol esters. Diet 2 was associated with a decrease in triacylglycerols and in the ratios of total to HDL-cholesterol and of triacylglycerols to HDL-cholesterol, and with an increase in HDL-cholesterol; EPA levels were decreased in phospholipids and cholesterol esters. Red blood cell membrane fluidity was increased in both diets (P<0·0001), but the higher increase was obtained with diet 1, mainly in the oldest subjects. Intakes of myristic acid (1·2%TE) and ALA (0·9%TE), both mainly in the sn-2 position, were associated with favourable lipid and n−3 long-chain fatty acid profiles. These beneficial effects coexisted with particularly high membrane fluidity, especially among the oldest subjects.