INTRODUCTION: Consumption of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) and antioxidant polyphenols is considered to decline the risk of cardiovascular disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: To provide an explanation for this cardioprotective effect, we performed an intervention study with proatherogenic Apoe(-/-) mice which were fed during eight weeks with a high fat diet supplemented with either walnuts (rich in n-3 PUFA and antioxidant compounds), walnut oil (with n-3 PUFA only) or sunflower oil as a control (12 mice per group). RESULTS: Feeding walnuts, but not walnut oil, caused a 55% reduction in atherosclerotic plaque development in the aortic arch in comparison to the control diet. This was associated with reduced staining of plaques for CD36, a scavenger receptor expressed by macrophages. Feeding mice with walnuts also lowered plasma levels of triglycerides, cholesterol and prothrombin with 36%, 23% and 21 %, respectively, compared to control diet. In addition, accumulation of lipids in the liver was decreased, while plasma antioxidant capacity was increased. On the other hand, feeding mice with walnut oil did not provoke significant changes in these parameters in comparison to the control diet. Platelet activation and thrombus formation under flow remained unchanged with either diet. CONCLUSIONS: In Apoe(-/-) mice on high fat diet, intake of dietary walnut (but not walnut oil) beneficially influences lipid metabolism and atherosclerotic plaque development, with no more than limited effects on platelet and coagulation function.