This double-blind, cross-over study with olive oil as placebo, examined the effect of a daily dosage of 6 g fish oil on cardiovascular risk markers of 20 healthy young volunteers (10 men, 10 women). Serum lipids and lipoproteins, and plasma coagulation and fibrinolytic enzymes, including fibrinogen concentrations and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) activity were measured at baseline and after 6-week supplementation of either fish or olive oil. The results showed that fish oil had an independent lowering effect on triglycerides and coagulation factors Vc and VIIc. Both fish and olive oil significantly raised PAI-1 levels and lowered plasma factor Xc and fibrinogen levels in the women, who had higher initial levels than the men. Mean fibrinogen levels of the women were lowered from 3.23 +/- 0.98 to 2.64 +/- 0.55 g/l and from 3.19 +/- 0.72 to 2.66 +/- 0.49 g/l by fish and olive oil respectively. This study raises the question whether a particular fatty acid or group of fatty acids, or another constituent of the oil such as vitamin E may be responsible for the fibrinogen lowering effect.