To investigate whether dietary fat source and energy restriction interactively influence plasma leptin levels and its association of leptin with insulin action, rats were fed diets containing either fish, safflower oil, or beef tallow (20% wt/wt) for 10 weeks. Groups of rats consumed each diet ad libitum or at 85% or 70% of ad libitum energy intake in a design that held fat intake constant. Graded levels of energy restriction caused body weight to decrease (P < 0.001) differently according to the dietary fat provided. Plasma leptin concentrations were 60% higher (P < 0.05) in the groups fed fish oil and safflower oil ad libitum compared with those in the beef tallow group, despite smaller perirenal fat mass and fat cell size in the fish oil-fed animals. Energy restriction resulted in a 62% decrease (P < 0.05) in leptin levels in fish oil- and safflower oil-fed rats, whereas no changes were observed in beef tallow-fed animals. Plasma insulin levels were lower (P < 0.05) in the fish oil group fed ad libitum compared with those in the two other diet groups. These data demonstrate a hyperleptinemic effect in animals consuming diets rich in polyunsaturated fatty acid, which can be normalized to the level of saturated fat consumption by mild energy restriction. Thus, dietary fatty acid composition, independent of adipose tissue mass, is an important determinant of circulating leptin level in diet-induced obesity.