To investigate the effect of dietary lipids with different fatty acid compositions upon the in vivo cytokine response to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS), mice were fed for 5 weeks on a low-fat diet or on one of four high-fat diets that contained 20%, by weight, of coconut oil (CO), olive oil (OO), safflower oil (SO) or fish oil (FO). The mice were injected intraperitoneally with a non-lethal dose of Escherichia coli LPS (100 micrograms/20 g body weight) and killed 90 or 180 min later. Plasma tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin (IL)-1alpha, IL-6 and IL-10 concentrations were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Plasma TNF-alpha and IL-10 concentrations were higher 90 min postinjection than after 180 min, whereas plasma IL-1beta and IL-6 concentrations were higher 180 min postinjection than after 90 min. Peak plasma TNF-alpha, IL-1beta and IL-6 concentrations were lower in the CO- and FO-fed mice than in those fed the SO diet. Peak plasma IL-10 concentrations were higher in CO-fed mice than in those fed some of the other diets. These observations suggest that, relative to the n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid-rich SO diet, CO and FO diminish production of proinflammatory cytokines in vivo. This indicates that these fatty acids might be useful therapies in acute and chronic inflammatory diseases. The enhanced production of IL-10 following CO feeding appears to be an additional antiinflammatory effect of this oil, which could give added benefit in various clinical conditions.