OBJECTIVE: Dietary changes are major factor in determining cardiovascular risk. We assessed the effects of isoenergetic diets with different fat quantity and quality on the incidence and regression of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) from the LIPGENE project. METHODS AND DESIGN: Clinical intervention study: the patients (n=337) were randomly assigned to one of four diets for 12 weeks each: two high fat diets, one rich in saturated fat (HSFA) and the other rich in monounsaturated fat (HMUFA), and two low fat diets, one high in complex carbohydrates (LFHCC) supplemented with 1.24g/day of long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (LFHCC n-3) and the other LFHCC diet with placebo (LFHCC). Measurements: the effects on MetS risk criteria were recorded before and after the intervention period. RESULTS: An enlarged waist circumference (>/=88cm for women and >/=102cm for men) was present among 95% of the participants, 88% had elevated blood pressure (>130/85mm Hg or antihypertensive drugs), 77% had elevated fasting plasma glucose (>/=5.55mmol/L), 51% were hypertriacylglycerolemic (>/=1.7mmol/L), and 72% had low HDL cholesterol (<1.0mmol/L for men, and <1.3mmol/L for women). The prevalence of enlarged waist circumference, hypertension and hypertriacylglycerolemia were reduced after the LFHCC n-3 diet (p<0.05). Thus the prevalence of MetS fell by 20.5% after LFHCC n-3 diet compared with the HSFA (10.6%), HMUFA (12%) diet or LFHCC (10.4%) diets (p<0.028). CONCLUSIONS: The consumption of a low-fat high-carbohydrate supplemented with n-3 diet reduced the risk of MetS as compared with isoenergetic high-fat (HSFA and HMUFA) and LFHCC diets.