Glucomannan, a viscous polysaccharide, and chitosan, a derivative of chitin, have both been demonstrated to lower cholesterol in animals. However, the mechanism of cholesterol lowering has not been established for either material. This study was conducted to determine the effect of glucomannan (G), chitosan (CH), or an equal mixture of the two (G + CH) on cholesterol absorption and fat and bile acid excretion. Rats were fed a modified AIN-93G diet for 18 d containing 0.125 g/100 g cholesterol and initially 10 g/100 g of the test materials or cellulose (C) as the control. However, the concentration of test materials and cellulose was reduced to 7.5 g/100 g after 1 wk due to lower weight gain compared with controls. Total liver cholesterol was significantly reduced in G, CH and G + CH groups compared with the C group. The intestinal contents supernatant viscosity of the C and the CH groups was negligible, whereas both G and G + CH produced high viscosities. Cholesterol absorption, measured by the fecal isotope ratio method, was significantly reduced from 37.5% in the C group to 20.2% in G, 18.2% in G + CH and 9.4% in CH. Daily fecal fat excretion did not differ between the C and G groups, but was significantly greater in G + CH and CH compared with the C and G groups. Daily fecal bile acid excretion was significantly greater in the CH and G + CH groups compared with the C and G groups. These results suggest that G lowered liver cholesterol by a viscosity-mediated interference of cholesterol absorption. In contrast, CH appears to lower cholesterol through a different mechanism.