The effects of 20 days bed rest (BR) on serum lipids and lipoprotein concentrations were investigated in 23 healthy young subjects (13 males and 10 females, aged 19 to 25 yr.). After 20 days BR, VO2max was reduced in both genders, but body composition did not change. The ratio of glucose area to insulin area during an oral glucose tolerance test decreased gradually throughout BR, which suggested a decrease in insulin sensitivity. Estimated changes in plasma volume from the beginning of BR were largest at day 3 of BR (-9.1% in females and -3.4% in males) and seemed to return the initial level at the end of BR in both genders. The increase in serum triglycerides and the decrease in high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and apolipoprotein AI were observed in both genders during BR. In a smaller study of 4 males and 5 females, 20 days BR was associated with a decrease in HDL, cholesterol, a decrease in apolipoprotein AI and apolipoprotein AII, decrease in a plasma postheparin lipoprotein lipase activity and an increase in very low density lipoprotein triglyceride. Overall, the data suggested that the decrease in lipoprotein lipase activity and insulin sensitivity may contribute to the impairment in HDL metabolism.