The effectiveness of lovastatin was compared with both a high-fat vs low-fat diet. Hypercholesterolemic subjects were studied under metabolic ward conditions for diet periods of 3 weeks while receiving lovastatin (40 mg/d) or placebo. Multiple lipoprotein levels were measured during the final week of each diet period. Nineteen subjects completed the study on the high-fat (43% of kilojoules) diet and 16 on the low-fat (25% of kilojoules) diet. Lovastatin reduced total cholesterol by 23% and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 30%, compared with placebo on both diets, with no significant diet-drug interaction. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol was raised by 7% to 8% on the diet regimens. Addition of lovastatin to the low-fat diet permitted 80% of subjects on this diet, but less than 50% of those on the high-fat diet, to achieve current guidelines. Although lovastatin produces a comparable percentage reduction in lipoprotein profiles on either diet, the accompanying low-fat diet remains advisable for additional reduction of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels to specified goals.