Chronic fish oil intervention had been shown to have a positive impact on endothelial function. Although high-fat meals have often been associated with a loss of postprandial vascular reactivity, studies examining the effects of fish oil fatty acids on vascular function in the postprandial phase are limited. The aim of the present study was to examine the impact of the addition of fish oil fatty acids to a standard test meal on postprandial vascular reactivity. A total of 25 men received in a random order either a placebo oil meal (40 g of mixed fat; fatty acid profile representative of the U.K. diet) or a fish oil meal (31 g of mixed fat and 9 g of fish oil) on two occasions. Vascular reactivity was measured at baseline (0 h) and 4 h after the meal by laser Doppler iontophoresis, and blood samples were taken for the measurement of plasma lipids, total nitrite, glucose and insulin. eNOS (endothelial NO synthase) and NADPH oxidase gene expression were determined in endothelial cells after incubation with TRLs (triacylglycerol-rich lipoproteins) isolated from the plasma samples taken at 4 h. Compared with baseline, sodium nitroprusside (an endothelium-independent vasodilator)-induced reactivity (P=0.024) and plasma nitrite levels (P=0.001) were increased after the fish oil meal. In endothelial cells, postprandial TRLs isolated after the fish oil meal increased eNOS and decreased NADPH oxidase gene expression compared with TRLs isolated following the placebo oil meal (P</=0.03). In conclusion, meal fatty acids appear to be an important determinant of vascular reactivity, with fish oils significantly improving postprandial endothelium-independent vasodilation.