Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) is a food gum having several structural and functional properties in common with hypocholesterolemic soluble fibers. The safety and cholestero-lowering efficacy of HPMC, incorporated into a National Cholesterol Education Program Step I diet, was compared with placebo in patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia. After an 8-week National Cholesterol Education Program Step I dietary lead-in phase, 160 patients with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol between 130 and 200 mg/dl and triglycerides <300 mg/dl were randomized to placebo, 2.5, 5.0, or 7.5 g/day of HPMC for a 6-week treatment period. Patients returned to the clinic every 2 weeks for lipid measurements and safety assessments. HPMC significantly lowered total, LDL, and non-high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol concentrations (average of weeks 4 and 6) decreased by 3.0% (4.9 mg/dl), 5.9% (10.3 mg/dl), 12.1% (20.4 mg/dl), and 11.7% (20.3 mg/dl) from baseline levels in the placebo and 2.5, 5.0, and 7.5 g/day HPMC treatment groups, respectively. Statistically significant (p<0.05) reductions in LDL cholesterol were observed in the 5.0 and 7.5 g/day HPMC groups compared with placebo and 2.5 g/day HPMC treatment groups. Total and non-HDL cholesterol responses paralleled those of LDL cholesterol. There were no significant differences between the treatment groups in HDL cholesterol or triglyceride responses, incidence of adverse experiences, or gastrointestinal-related adverse experiences. These results suggest that HPMC is a well-tolerated and effective adjunct to diet for lowering LDL cholesterol in patients with mild to moderate hypercholesterolemia.