High fat meals postprandially impair macrovascular endothelial function and a link to increased oxidative stress is suggested. Few information, on the other hand, exists on the effect of postprandial hyperlipidaemia on resistance vessel function. Under normal circumstances this vascular bed regulates tissue perfusion and, by controlling flow, impacts on macrovascular nitric oxide formation. The impact of a high fat meal (1200 kcal, 90 g fat, 46 g protein and 47 g carbohydrates) on postprandial resistance vessel reactivity and on indicators of oxidative stress was studied in 11 healthy subjects by venous-occlusion plethysmography using another six subjects as time control group. Ingestion of the test meal resulted in a pronounced increase of serum triglycerides from 1.05 +/- 0.61 mmol l(-1) in the fasting state to peak postprandial values of 1.94 +/- 0.41 mmol l(-1) (P < 0.001) reached after 4 h and a return to baseline after 8 h. Fasting peak reactive hyperaemia (RH) was 19.6 +/- 2.4 ml min(-1) (100 ml)(-1). Two hours after ingestion of the test meal peak RH was transiently reduced to 16.8 +/- 2.2 ml min(-1) (100 ml)(-1) (P < 0.05). No alteration of resting forearm perfusion was observed. The time course of peak RH suggested a potential biphasic effect of the test meal with an early impairment and a late increase of RH. Ingestion of a lipid rich test meal did not exert any influence on either total plasma antioxidant capacity given in trolox equivalents (513 +/- 26 micromol l(-1) at baseline) or on plasma peroxides measured as H2O2 equivalents (469 +/- 117 micromol l(-1)). Our results suggest that ingestion of a meal containing 90 g of fat results in a transient impairment of reactive hyperaemia in healthy subjects but these vascular alterations are not accompanied by signs of systemically increased oxidative stress.