We examined, in young adult women, the association between current low dose oral contraceptive (OC) use and plasma levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), an acute phase reactant predictive of cardiovascular disease risk. We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 30 healthy, non-smoking, non-obese women (18 OC users and 12 nonusers) who were subjects in a randomized diet-controlled trial of the effects of soy intake on sex hormone metabolism. The study was sited at a university outpatient general clinical research center. Fasting plasma CRP levels were measured 4 times during 2 menstrual cycles (2 mid-follicular phase and 2 mid-luteal phase) using a high-sensitivity CRP assay. Differences between OC users and nonusers were examined by 3-way analysis of variance. Multiple regression was used to examine the relationship between OC use and CRP. There were no significant differences in baseline demographic characteristics between OC users and nonusers. Plasma CRP levels (mean +/- SE) were 2 times higher among OC users than among non-users (2.0 +/- 0.2 versus 0.9 +/- 0.3 mg/l, p<0.0001) independent of diet assignment, diet treatment order, and phase of the menstrual cycle. In a multivariate model, OC use predicted 32 percent of the variance in CRP levels (p<0.0001). As all CRP levels were within a previously established normal range, further study is indicated to establish the clinical significance of the observed elevated CRP levels in OC users.