The effect of ileal infusion of a lipid emulsion, containing 50% corn oil and 3% albumen, on food intake and satiety was measured in paired experiments carried out in 6 healthy volunteers. Subjects ate for shorter periods of time during ileal infusions of fat emulsion compared with control infusions of albumen and saline (25 +/- 1 vs. 32 +/- 3 min, mean +/- SEM) and consumed a smaller amount of food (670 +/- 23 g vs. 884 +/- 89 g) and energy (1016 +/- 79 kcal vs. 1591 +/- 228 kcal). The quantity of liquid drunk and the rates of eating and drinking were not significantly affected by the infusion of fat emulsion. In a further series of experiments carried out in 5 normal volunteers, ileal infusion of corn oil emulsions delayed gastric emptying compared with ileal infusion of albumen and saline (t1/2 = 203 +/- 48 vs. 68 +/- 12 min, p less than 0.02). The possibility that the observed reductions in food intake were related to the effect of absorbed fat was investigated in 6 healthy volunteers during intravenous infusion of either fat emulsion or isosmotic saline. Food intake was not affected by intravenous infusion of lipid. Our results suggest that lipid may interact with ileal receptors to induce early satiety and reduce the amount of food consumed. The earlier inhibition of food intake during lipid infusion is perhaps best explained by early gastric distention caused by delayed gastric emptying, though the data would not exclude the release of an ileal mechanism, which has a direct action on the satiety centers.