The study assessed the efficacy of fish oil supplementation in counteracting the classic dyslipidemia of the atherogenic lipoprotein phenotype (ALP). In addition, the impact of the common apolipoprotein E (apoE) polymorphism on the fasting and postprandial lipid profile and on responsiveness to the dietary intervention was established. Fifty-five ALP males (aged 34 to 69 years, body mass index 22 to 35 kg/m(2), triglyceride [TG] levels 1.5 to 4.0 mmol/L, high density lipoprotein cholesterol [HDL-C] <1.1 mmol/l, and percent low density lipoprotein [LDL]-3 >40% total LDL) completed a randomized placebo-controlled crossover trial of fish oil (3.0 g eicosapentaenoic acid/docosahexaenoic acid per day) and placebo (olive oil) capsules with the 6-week treatment arms separated by a 12-week washout period. In addition to fasting blood samples, at the end of each intervention arm, a postprandial assessment of lipid metabolism was carried out. Fish oil supplementation resulted in a reduction in fasting TG level of 35% (P<0.001), in postprandial TG response of 26% (TG area under the curve, P<0.001), and in percent LDL-3 of 26% (P<0.05). However, no change in HDL-C levels was evident (P=0.752). ANCOVA showed that baseline HDL-C levels were significantly lower in apoE4 carriers (P=0.035). The apoE genotype also had a striking impact on lipid responses to fish oil intervention. Individuals with an apoE2 allele displayed a marked reduction in postprandial incremental TG response (TG incremental area under the curve, P=0.023) and a trend toward an increase in lipoprotein lipase activity relative to non-E2 carriers. In apoE4 individuals, a significant increase in total cholesterol and a trend toward a reduction in HDL-C relative to the common homozygous E3/E3 profile was evident. Our data demonstrate the efficacy of fish oil fatty acids in counteracting the proatherogenic lipid profile of the ALP but also that the apoE genotype influences responsiveness to this dietary treatment.