The effects of a moderately energy-restricted (25 kcal/kg) diet on liver-function tests, anthropometric measurements, mononuclear-cell phospholipid fatty acid, lymphocyte blastogenesis, and plasma prostaglandin E2 and alpha-tocopherol levels were observed at weeks 0, 8, and 24 in 14 obese patients with fatty liver. Serum aminotransferase levels were improved significantly, with decreases in the body mass index and waist circumference. Decreases in energy intake from carbohydrate and increases in intake of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vegetables were observed at week 24. In mononuclear-cell phospholipids, linoleic acid (18:2omega 6), which was significantly lower in patients than in controls at week 0, was increased at week 24. In contrast, arachidonic acid was decreased. Plasma prostaglandin E2 levels were significantly lower in patients than in controls at week 0 and increased at week 24. The mononuclear-cell response for phytohemagglutinin correlated with 18:2omega 6 in mononuclear-cell phospholipids (r = 0.692, P < 0.01). Improvement of the serum alanine-aminotransferase level correlated with an increase in the plasma alpha-tocopherol level (r = -0.667, P < 0.01) and increases in consumption of vitamin A, omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, and vegetables. These findings suggest that a hypoenergetic diet rich in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants might be beneficial for obese patients with fatty liver.