The role of cholesterol and bile acid malabsorption in the regulation of plasma plant sterol levels was studied in 30 patients with an ileal resection (seven without any malabsorption, eight with bile acid malabsorption alone and 15 with bile acid, fat and cholesterol malabsorption) and nine with jejunoileal bypass (modest bile acid, and severe cholesterol and fat malabsorption). In contrast to cholesterol, plant sterols are not synthesized by the body, and so the plasma levels are regulated by their intestinal absorption and biliary secretion. In fact, the plant sterol, especially campesterol, levels were low in patients with cholesterol and fat malabsorption. Cholesterol absorption efficiency was a significant determinant of the plant sterol levels, suggesting that it reflects overall sterol absorption efficiency and that the plasma plant sterol levels, in turn, reflect cholesterol absorption. Bile acid malabsorption, though it appeared to promote biliary plant sterol secretion, had little direct effect on the plasma plant sterol contents. The results indicate that plasma campesterol levels can be used to evaluate cholesterol absorption efficiency in general and may reveal clinically significant steatorrhoea in patients with gut exclusion.