This study examined the effects of dietary saturated and polyunsaturated fat on the chemical composition and metabolism of low density lipoproteins (LDL) in eight normal male subjects. The influence of these diets on fecal sterol excretion was also measured in four of the subjects. When compared with the saturated fat diet, the polyunsaturated diet lowered both plasma cholesterol polyunsaturated diet lowered both plasma cholesterol (23%, P less than 0.001) and triglyceride (14%, P less than 0.001) levels. Sixty-seven percent of the reduction in the former lipid resulted from a fall in LDL cholesterol (23%, P less than 0.001), although very low density (VLDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels also fell (by 27% and 20% of their respective control value). These changes were accompanied by significant alterations in LDL composition. Specifically, during polyunsaturated fat feeding, the relative percentage cholesterol in the LDL fraction fell while that of phospholipid rose. There was no change in the percentage protein or triglyceride. The fatty acid components of LDL triglyceride, cholesteryl esters, and phospholipid were also affected by dietary fat saturation level. Overall, polyunsaturated fat feeding produced an enrichment in linoleate with reciprocal changes in palmitate, stearate, and oleate which affected triglycerides more than cholesteryl esters and phospholipids. The above changes in LDL composition were associated with alterations in the metabolism of LDL apoprotein (apoLDL). The polyunsaturated deit lowered plasma apoLDL by 13% (P less than 0.05). This resulted from an increase in the fractional catabolic rate of LDL (whether determined by plasma decay curve analysis (P less than 0.05) or urine/plasma radioactivity ratios (P less than 0.001) without significant alteration of its corporeal distribution or synthetic rate. The polyunsaturated fat diet did not cause a consistent change in fecal neutral or acidic steroid excretion. We conclude that the hypocholesterolemic action of polyunsaturated fat diets is effected by multiple mechanisms whose expression may vary from patient to patient.