Differences in oxidation of individual dietary fatty acids could contribute to the effect of dietary fat composition on risk factors for non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Using a novel stable isotope technique, we compared fractional oxidation of chylomicron-derived oleate and palmitate in 10 healthy adults in a crossover study. 1-(13)C-labeled oleate or palmitate was emulsified into a eucaloric formula diet administered each 20 min for 7 h to produce a plateau in excretion of (13)C label in breath CO(2). Unlabeled oleate and palmitate each provided 16% of dietary energy, and other fatty acids provided 8% of energy. Total dietary fat was 40% of energy, carbohydrate was 46%, and protein was 14%. Diet without tracer was fed for 2 h before beginning tracer administration to establish a baseline fed state. Relative oxidation of oleate versus palmitate was defined as fractional oxidation of oleate divided by fractional oxidation of palmitate. Relative oxidation averaged 1.21 (99.5% confidence interval = 1.03;-1.39), indicating that fractional oxidation of oleate was significantly greater than that of palmitate.