The effects of fish oil supplements on plasma and platelet membrane lipids, lipoproteins, sex steroid hormones, glucose, insulin, platelet aggregation, and blood pressure in normal subjects (n = 13) and patients with essential hypertension (n = 13) were studied in this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-way crossover study. Treatments consisted of 30 days of 5 g of n-3 fatty acids (ten 1-g capsules of fish oil daily) or placebo capsules (ten wheat germ oil capsules daily) with a one-month washout in between each crossover. Serum lipids and lipoproteins were measured before dosing and every two weeks during the study. Sex steroid hormones, glucose, insulin, and fatty acid composition in platelet membrane phospholipids were measured before dosing and at the end of each crossover. During treatment with fish oil, only the hypertensive had increases in total cholesterol (8%, p less than 0.026), LDL cholesterol (19%, p less than 0.006) and apolipoprotein B (18%, p less than 0.026). Serum androgens (total and free testosterone) were 30% lower in hypertensives than normotensives before any dosing, but were unchanged with placebo or fish oil capsules in either group. Plasma glucose, insulin, platelet aggregation, and the incorporation of n-3 fatty acids into platelet membrane phospholipid subfractions were similar in both normotensive and hypertensive men. Blood pressure was not affected by fish oil treatment in either group of men. These results provide evidence that fish oil may adversely affect serum lipids to yield an atherogenic lipid profile in hypertensive men.