Linoleic acid is the most abundant fatty acid in human low density lipoproteins (LDL). Oxidation of LDL transforms linoleic acid to hydroperoxyderivatives. These are converted to 9-hydroxy-10,12-octadecadienoic acid (9-HODE) and 13-hydroxy-9,11-octadecadienoic acid (13-HODE). 9-HODE is much more abundant in oxidized LDL than other lipid peroxidation products and therefore an indicator of lipid peroxidation (LPO). In this study the 9-HODE content in the LDL of 19 obviously healthy volunteers and 17 atherosclerotic patients was investigated. The level of 9-HODE obtained from LDL of young atherosclerotic patients (aged 36-47 years) was increased by a factor of 20 when compared with samples from healthy volunteers of the same age group. The content of 9-HODE in the LDL of atherosclerotic patients aged between 69 and 94 years increased 30-100 fold when compared with young healthy individuals, but when compared with 'healthy' individuals of the same age group it was only 2-3 fold increased. Obviously, as individuals grow older LDL becomes more and more oxidized. Consequently, assuming that LDL oxidation is a precondition for atherosclerosis--older individuals will suffer from atherosclerosis, even if no easy detectable visible signs of this disease are recognizable. According to 9-HODE determination, the onset of the disease starts slowly in most individuals at around 50 years of age.