1. Four groups of adult male Sprague–Dawley rats were fed for 6 weeks on a diet with a low-fat content (50 g/kg) and another four groups were given a diet rich in fat (250 g/kg) and cholesterol (12 g/kg). In both cases, the basal diets were either fibre-depleted or supplemented with cellulose (60 g/kg), wheat bran (100 g/kg) or low-methoxyl pectin (100 g/kg).
2. Low-methoxyl pectin displayed the most hypocholesterolaemic effect and decreased the cholesterol content of the very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL), when the low-fat diet was given. When rats were fed on the high-fat diet, pectin no longer had a hypocholesterolaemic effect but still decreased the VLDL-cholesterol content. Pectin lowered serum triglyceride and VLDL-trigylceride levels only when the low-fat diet was given.
3. Wheat bran exerted no hypocholesterolaemic effect in rats fed on the low- and high-fat diets, but decreased the cholesterol content of VLDL and lowered serum triglycerides and VLDL-tryglycerides when the high-fat diet was given.
4. Purified cellulose had no significant effect on plasma lipids.
5. As shown by multivariance analysis, low-methoxyl pectin and wheat bran both beneficially modified the serum triglyceride and cholesterol variables except VLDL-triglycerides. However, the magnitude of the effect of each individual type of fibre was dependent on the fat and cholesterol content of the diet, suggesting the existence of different mechanisms of action.