Trans isomers of fatty acids, formed by the partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils to produce margarine and vegetable shortening, increase the ratio of plasma low-density-lipoprotein to high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, so it is possible that they adversely influence risk of coronary heart disease (CHD). To investigate this possibility, we studied dietary data from participants in the Nurses' Health Study. We calculated intake of trans fatty acids from dietary questionnaires completed by 85,095 women without diagnosed CHD, stroke, diabetes, or hypercholesterolaemia in 1980. During 8 years of follow-up, there were 431 cases of new CHD (non-fatal myocardial infarction or death from CHD). After adjustment for age and total energy intake, intake of trans isomers was directly related to risk of CHD (relative risk for highest vs lowest quintile 1.50 [95% Cl 1.12-2.00], p for trend = 0.001). Additional control for established CHD risk factors, multivitamin use, and intakes of saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and linoleic acid, dietary cholesterol, vitamins E or C, carotene, or fibre did not change the relative risk substantially. The association was stronger for the 69,181 women whose margarine consumption over the previous 10 years had been stable (1.67 [1.05-2.66], p for trend = 0.002). Intakes of foods that are major sources of trans isomers (margarine, cookies [biscuits], cake, and white bread) were each significantly associated with higher risks of CHD. These findings support the hypothesis that consumption of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils may contribute to occurrence of CHD.