The antioxidative effect of intact cells and intracellular cell-free extracts of intestinal lactic acid bacteria B. longum (ATCC 15708) and L. acidophilus (ATCC 4356) was investigated. Both intact cells and intracellular cell-free extracts of 10(9)cells of B. longum and L. acidophilus demonstrated antioxidative activity, inhibiting linoleic acid peroxidation by 28-48%. This indicated that these two strains demonstrated excellent antioxidative activity. B. longum and L. acidophilus also showed the ability to scavenge alpha,alpha-diphenyl-beta-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) free radical, scavenging 21-52%. The intact cells of these two intestinal bacteria demonstrated a high inhibitory effect on the cytotoxicity of 4-nitroquinoline-N-oxide (4NQO). Cytotoxicity of 4NQO was reduced by L. acidophilus by approximately half and by almost 90% by B. longum. Nevertheless, no inhibition of cytoxicity observed for intracellular cell-free extracts of 10(9) cells of B. longum and L. acidophilus. The effect of B. longum and L. acidophilus on inhibiting plasma lipid peroxidation was also evaluated. The results showed that both intestinal strains were able to protect plasma lipid from oxidation at different degrees. The inhibition rates on plasma lipid peroxidation ranged from 11 to 29% for 10(9) cells of B. longum and L. acidophilus. Generally speaking, B. longum demonstrated better antioxidative ability than L. acidophilus in this study.