BACKGROUND: Studies have suggested that oleic and stearic acids, as well as oleic and linoleic acids, have comparable effects on the serum lipoprotein profile. If so, then substituting these three 18-carbon fatty acids for each other would result in similar effects on the serum lipoprotein profile. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to compare simultaneously the effects of stearic, oleic, and linoleic acids on the serum lipoprotein profile of healthy subjects. DESIGN: Forty-five subjects (27 women and 18 men) consumed in random order 3 experimental diets, each for 5 wk. The diets provided 38% of energy from fat, of which 60% was supplied by the experimental fats. The dietary compositions of the diets were the same, except for 7% of energy, which was provided by stearic, oleic, or linoleic acid. At the end of each intervention period, serum lipid and lipoprotein concentrations were measured. In addition, LDL, HDL, and VLDL particle sizes and particle concentrations of lipoprotein subclasses were analyzed by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. RESULTS: No significant diet-induced changes in serum lipids and lipoproteins were found. Mean (+/-SD) serum LDL-cholesterol concentrations were 3.79 +/- 0.91, 3.71 +/- 0.79, and 3.65 +/- 0.91 mmol/L with the high-stearic acid, high-oleic acid, and high-linoleic acid diets, respectively (P = 0.137 for diet effects). Mean (+/-SD) HDL-cholesterol concentrations were 1.45 +/- 0.43, 1.46 +/- 0.45, and 1.46 +/- 0.44 mmol/L (P = 0.866). LDL, HDL, and VLDL particle sizes and lipoprotein subclass distributions also did not differ significantly between the 3 diets. CONCLUSIONS: With realistic intakes of stearic, oleic, and linoleic acids, differences between their effects on the serum lipoprotein profile are small.