Cardiovascular heart disease is a major health problem in the United States. Elevated blood cholesterol has been shown to significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular heart disease. The National Cholesterol Educational Program (NCEP) Step I diet, which restricts fat and cholesterol intakes, is usually recommended as the initial treatment to lower blood cholesterol. Soy protein has been shown to be hypocholesterolemic, particularly in hypercholesterolemic subjects. However, the hypocholesterolemic effect of soy protein in subjects with a blood total cholesterol concentration <5.17 mmol/L is not clear. To determine whether soy protein could enhance the hypocholesterolemic effect of the NCEP Step I diet, 13 normocholesterolemic and 13 hypercholesterolemic men aged 20-50 y were enrolled in a randomized, 2-part, crossover study. Subjects were fed either an NCEP Step I soy-protein diet or an NCEP Step I animal protein diet for 5 wk. After a washout period of 10-15 wk, the subjects were fed the alternate diet for 5 wk. The hypocholesterolemic effect of soy protein was found to be independent of age, body weight, pretreatment plasma lipid concentrations, and sequence of dietary treatment. Regardless of plasma lipid status, the soy-protein diet was associated with a statistically significant decrease in the plasma concentrations of LDL cholesterol (P = 0.029) as well as the in the ratio of plasma LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol (P = 0.005). Our results indicate that soy protein enhances the hypocholesterolemic effect of the NCEP Step I diet in both normocholesterolemic and hypercholesterolemic men.