Lime-treated maize husks (LTCH), a by-product of tortilla manufacturing in Mexico, have been shown to decrease plasma LDL-cholesterol levels in guinea-pigs by specific alterations in hepatic cholesterol metabolism. To determine whether LTCH would also lower plasma cholesterol levels in normal and hyperlipidaemic individuals, the fibre content of a typical diet was increased by supplementing free-living subjects in North-West Mexico with cookies containing 450 g LTCH/kg. Normal subjects (n 11) with plasma cholesterol levels of less than 5.7 mmol/l and hypercholesterolaemic subjects (n 12) with plasma cholesterol levels higher than 5.7 mmol/l participated in the study. Plasma glucose, cholesterol, triacylglycerol, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol concentrations, LDL:HDL values and blood pressure were determined at baseline and after 6 weeks of supplementation with LTCH. LTCH supplementation significantly lowered the plasma total cholesterol level by 11-15% and LDL-cholesterol by 25%, and improved the LDL:HDL value by 29-33% (P < 0.01) in both normal and hypercholesterolaemic subjects. HDL-cholesterol, triacylglycerol and glucose concentrations did not change. Both groups consumed equal amounts of LTCH per week; individuals showed excellent compliance and good acceptance of the product. Neither group changed their dietary habits during the time of the experiment as determined by 3 d dietary records at baseline and at week 6. We conclude that LTCH supplements are suitable to increase fibre intake and reduce plasma LDL-cholesterol levels in healthy and hypercholesterolaemic subjects in this population.