Role of enterohepatic cholesterol metabolism in obesity-induced increase of cholesterol synthesis was studied in healthy lean (BMI <24) and overweight (BMI >31) subjects by measuring serum lipids (including plant sterols, cholestanol and cholesterol precursors), cholesterol absorption % (double-label method), sterol balance and biliary lipids. New aspects of sterol metabolism in obesity were as follows: low efficiency of cholesterol absorption, reduced ratios to cholesterol of serum and biliary plant sterols and cholestanol (5alpha-derivative of cholesterol), and a marked increase of serum and biliary cholesterol precursor sterols. Percent of cholesterol absorption was positively related to serum cholestanol and plant sterols, and negatively to cholesterol synthesis, measured by the sterol balance technique or cholesterol precursor sterols in serum or bile. Total and endogenous cholesterol fluxes into the intestine were increased, but owing to low absorption percent, mass of cholesterol absorption was within control limits in the obese subjects. Thus, per gram of their large liver tissue the entry of intestinal cholesterol may even be subnormal. Percent of cholesterol absorption was insignificantly negatively (r=-0.256) related to intestinal cholesterol pool, but significantly to biliary concentrations of cholesterol (r=-0.581), bile acids (r=-0.513) and phospholipids (r=-0.469). Thus, dilution of labeled dietary cholesterol by expanded intestinal cholesterol pool could have contributed to subnormal efficiency of cholesterol absorption, or transfer of labeled dietary cholesterol from intestinal oil phase to micellar phase may be competitively inhibited by expanded biliary secretion, resulting in reduced absorption of dietary cholesterol. These mechanisms could have contributed to changes in metabolism of non-cholesterol sterols, especially of cholestanol and plant sterols.