Dietary flaxseed has cardioprotective effects that may be achieved through its rich content of the omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Because ALA can be stored in adipose tissue, it is possible that some of its beneficial actions may be due to effects it has on the adipose tissue. We investigated the effects of dietary flaxseed both with and without an atherogenic cholesterol-enriched diet to determine the effects of dietary flaxseed on the expression of the adipose cytokines leptin and adiponectin. Rabbits were fed one of four diets: a regular (RG) diet, or a regular diet with added 0.5% cholesterol (CH), or 10% ground flaxseed (FX), or both (CF) for 8 weeks. Levels of leptin and adiponectin expression were assessed by RT-PCR in visceral adipose tissue. Consumption of flaxseed significantly increased plasma and adipose levels of ALA. Leptin protein and mRNA expression were lower in CH animals and were elevated in CF animals. Changes in leptin expression were strongly and positively correlated with adipose ALA levels and inversely correlated with levels of en face atherosclerosis. Adiponectin expression was not significantly affected by any of the dietary interventions. Our data demonstrate that the type of fat in the diet as well as its caloric content can specifically influence leptin expression. The findings support the hypothesis that the beneficial cardiovascular effects associated with flaxseed consumption may be related to a change in leptin expression.