Chileans and North American Indians have one of the highest prevalence rates of cholesterol gallstones in the world. The most common theory to explain this has been the operation of some as yet undefined genetic risk factor in these populations. Searching for some common environmental factor for gallstones in Chileans and North American Indians, we found that beans and other legumes are common foods consumed by both populations. In this study we tested the hypothesis that legume intake may favor the production of biliary cholesterol supersaturation. We studied 20 young men subjected to a diet containing 120 g/day of legumes and a control diet without legumes for a period of 1 mo each. Both diets supplied identical quantities of energy, carbohydrates, protein, total fat, fiber, and cholesterol. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration decreased by 16% (p less than 0.001) after the legume diet. Biliary cholesterol saturation increased in 19 of the 20 subjects; the mean of the group markedly increased from 110% to 169% (p less than 0.001) after the legume diet. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that legume intake is a potential risk factor for cholesterol gallstone disease.