We wished to determine the effectiveness of submaximal doses of cholestyramine and psyllium given in combination in reversing dietary-induced hypercholesterolemia in Golden Syrian hamsters, and to investigate the mechanism or mechanisms of action through which these agents together decrease plasma low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels in this model. For 30 days, male hamsters were fed a cholesterol-rich cereal-based diet containing either a submaximal dose of cholestyramine (1% wt/wt) alone or in combination with psyllium (either 2 or 4%), or a high dose of cholestyramine (3%) alone. Although the greatest cholesterol-reducing action was achieved with 3% resin alone, in the animals fed one third as much cholestyramine combined with psyllium (4%) LDL-C production decreased from 288 +/- 15 to 187 +/- 17 micrograms/h per 100 g body weight, the suppression of LDL-receptor activity was almost fully reversed, plasma LDL-C levels were reduced from 90 +/- 8 to 41 +/- 5 mg/dl, and hepatic cholesterol content decreased from 17.1 +/- 1.9 to 2.4 +/- 0.1 mg/g. In the group that received 1% resin alone, the plasma LDL-C and hepatic cholesterol levels were 60 +/- 3 mg/dl and 7.2 +/- 0.6 mg/g, respectively. As compared with animals that received 1% resin alone, those fed both agents manifested higher rates of fecal bile acid excretion and lower levels of intestinal cholesterol absorption. A significant cholesterol-lowering benefit can be derived from using these nonsystemic agents in combination at lower, more tolerable doses.