Dietary fish oils, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, have been reported to reduce plasma lipid levels in normolipidemic subjects. We examined the effects of fish oil in 20 hypertriglyceridemic patients: 10 with Type IIb hyperlipidemia and 10 with Type V. These patients were put on three diets differing primarily in fatty acid composition and fat content. The control diet contained a fatty acid mixture typical of a low-fat therapeutic diet (ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fat, 1.4), the fish-oil diet contained omega-3 fatty acids, and the vegetable-oil diet was rich in the omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid. Each diet was followed for four weeks. In the Type IIb group, the fish-oil diet led to decreases in both plasma cholesterol (-27 per cent) and triglyceride (-64 per cent), as compared with the control diet. Very-low-density lipoproteins (VLDLs) were also reduced markedly. The vegetable-oil diet had much less effect. With fish oil, the Type V group had marked decreases in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (-45 and -79 per cent, respectively). VLDL levels were dramatically lowered, as were apoprotein E levels. The vegetable-oil diet (unlike the fish-oil diet) produced a rapid and significant rise in plasma triglyceride levels. We conclude that fish oils and fish may be useful components of diets for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia.