Peanut oil is unexpectedly atherogenic for rats, rabbits, and primates. The lesions it produces are more fibrous than fatty. The mechanism underlying the atherogenicity of peanut oil has been elusive. Randomization of peanut oil reduces significantly its atherogenic properties, but native and randomized peanut oils have similar rates of lipolysis, and rats fed the two oils absorb and transport lipids in a similar fashion. Peanut oil differs from other oils in having a relatively high lectin content, and the randomization process markedly reduces the lectin content as well. The biologically active lectin of peanut oil has an affinity for glycoproteins found specifically on arterial smooth muscle cells. Peanut lectin has been shown to stimulate growth of smooth muscle and pulmonary arterial cells. Vigorous washing of peanut oil reduces its lectin content by 46%. Compared to rabbits fed cholesterol and peanut oil, rabbits fed cholesterol and washed peanut oil exhibited less severe atherosclerosis in the aortic arch (by 9%) and in the thoracic aorta (by 31%). The data suggest that peanut oils' endogenous lectin may contribute significantly to its atherogenic properties.