Eight Tarahumara Indian men participated in a metabolic study to measure the responsiveness of their plasma cholesterol levels to dietary cholesterol. They were fed isocaloric cholesterol-free and high cholesterol diets containing 20% fat, 15% protein, and 65% carbohydrate calories. On admission to the study, the Tarahumaras had a low mean plasma cholesterol concentration (120 mg/dl), reflecting their habitual low cholesterol diet. After 3 wk of a cholesterol-free diet their cholesterol levels were 113 mg/dl. The men were then fed a high cholesterol diet (1000 mg/day) which increased the mean total plasma cholesterol to 147 mg/dl (p less than 0.01) and also increased the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentration. Tarahumaras, habituated to a low cholesterol diet after weaning, had the typical hypercholesterolemic response to a high cholesterol diet that has been previously observed in subjects whose lifelong diet was high in cholesterol content.