Rapeseed oil (RSO) is a novel source of plant sterols, containing the unique brassicasterol in concentrations higher than allowed for plant sterol blends in food products in the European Union. Effects of RSO sterols and stanols on aortic atherosclerosis were studied in cholesterol-fed heterozygous Watanabe heritable hyperlipidaemic (Hh-WHHL) rabbits. Four groups (n 18 per group) received a cholesterol-added (2 g/kg) standard chow or this diet with added RSO stanol esters (17 g/kg), RSO stanol esters (34 g/kg) or RSO sterol esters (34 g/kg) for 18 weeks. Feeding RSO stanol esters increased plasma campestanol (P < 0·001) and sitostanol (P < 0·001) and aortic campestanol (P < 0·05) compared with controls. Feeding RSO sterol esters increased concentrations of plasma campesterol (P < 0·001), sitosterol (P < 0·001) and brassicasterol (P < 0·001) and aortic campesterol (P < 0·01). Significantly lower plasma cholesterol (P < 0·001) was recorded in the treated groups after 3 weeks and throughout the study. LDL-cholesterol was reduced 50 % in the high-dose RSO sterol ester (P < 0·01) and high-dose RSO stanol ester (P < 0·001) groups compared with controls. Atherosclerotic lesions were found in three rabbits in each of the RSO stanol ester groups and in one in the RSO sterol ester group. Aortic cholesterol was decreased in the treated groups (P < 0·001) in response to lowering of plasma cholesterol induced by RSO sterol and stanol esters. In conclusion, RSO stanol and sterol esters with a high concentration of brassicasterol were well tolerated. They were hypocholesterolaemic and inhibited experimental atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed Hh-WHHL rabbits. A significant uptake of plant sterols into the blood and incorporation of campesterol and campestanol into aortic tissue was recorded.