Evidence from in vitro studies shows that increased intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids leads to increased oxidative stress, which may be associated with endothelial damage. We measured the urinary levels of 8-iso-PGF2alpha and nitric oxide metabolites as well as plasma sICAM-1 levels from healthy subjects after strictly controlled diets rich in either linoleic acid (LA, C18:2 n-6) or oleic acid (OA, C18:1 n-9). Thirty-eight volunteers (20 women and 18 men, mean age 27 years) consumed a baseline diet rich in saturated fatty acids (SFA) for 4 weeks and were then switched to either a high LA diet (11.5 en%) or a high OA diet (18.0 en%) also for 4 weeks. During the LA and OA diets, nearly all food was provided for the whole day. A control group of 13 subjects consumed their habitual diet throughout the study. Urinary excretion of 8-iso-PGF2alpha was significantly increased after the LA diet (170 vs 241 ng/mmol creatinine, P=0.04), whereas the urinary concentration of nitric oxide metabolites decreased (4.2 vs 2.6 mg/mmol creatinine, P=0.03). No significant changes were seen in the OA group. Significant differences between the LA and control group were found for both 8-oxo-PGF2alpha (P=0.03) and NO (P=0.02), whereas the OA and LA groups did not differ with respect to any parameter. Also plasma sICAM-1 remained unchanged in both groups throughout the study. In conclusion, the high-LA diet increased oxidative stress and affected endothelial function in a way which may in the long-term predispose to endothelial dysfunction.