Oxidant stress seems to play a role in several setting of human pathology, such as atherosclerosis, cancer, and aging. The study of oxidant stress in human disease should be based on the evaluation of either sensitive and specific markers of enhanced oxidant stress, such as oxysterols, or antioxidant defense, by measuring alpha-tocopherol. We have developed a rapid method to measure the oxysterols 7beta-hydroxycholesterol and 7-ketocholesterol in plasma (50 healthy subjects) and tissue as an index of oxidant stress in vivo, and from the same sample alpha-tocopherol content. The mean plasma concentration of 7beta-hydroxycholesterol and 7-ketocholesterol was 4.6+/-1.1 and 13.4+/-7.6 ng/mL, respectively. Plasma alpha-tocopherol concentration was 5.8+/-1.0 micromol/mol cholesterol. Samples from atherosclerotic plaques contained 20 times more cholesterol, about 45 times higher oxysterols levels, and 600 times more alpha-tocopherol compared to normal arteries. No significant difference in cholesterol and oxysterol content was observed between cirrhotic and normal liver. However, cirrhotic liver contained significantly smaller concentration of alpha-tocopherol compared to normal liver. In conclusion, we have developed a rapid and reliable method for the assay of cholesterol oxidation products and alpha-tocopherol in plasma and tissue useful for estimation of oxidant stress/antioxidant balance.