The aim of this study was to compare the acute effect of (i) meals rich in saturated fat, oleic acid, and alpha-linolenic acid and (ii) meals rich in starch and fiber on markers of inflammation and oxidative stress in obese and lean women. In a crossover study, 15 abdominally obese women (age, 54 +/- 9 years; BMI, 37.3 +/- 5.5 kg/m2) and 14 lean women (age, 53 +/- 10 years; BMI, 22.9 +/- 1.9 kg/m2) consumed meals rich in cream (CR), olive oil (OL), canola oil (CAN), potato (POT), and All-Bran (BRAN) in random order. Blood samples were collected before and up to 6 h after the meals and plasma interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-8, tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), lipid peroxides (LPOs), free-fatty acids (FFAs), insulin, glucose, and cortisol were measured. Plasma IL-6 decreased significantly 1 h after the meals then increased significantly above baseline at 4h and 6h in obese women and at 6h in lean women. The incremental area under the curve (iAUC) for IL-6 was significantly (P = 0.02) higher in obese compared with lean women and was significantly lower following the high fiber BRAN meal compared with a POT meal (P = 0.003). Waist circumference (R = 0.491, P = 0.007) and cortisol AUC (R = -0.415, P = 0.03) were significant determinants of the magnitude of 6h changes in plasma IL-6 after the meals. These findings suggest that the postprandial response of plasma IL-6 concentrations may be influenced by the type of carbohydrate in the meal, central adiposity, and circulating cortisol concentrations in women.