In recent years it has been reported that free oxygen radicals play an important role in the pathogenesis of degenerative diseases and that; antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins E or C prevent their harmful effects. In this study, we evaluated the following: Erythrocyte susceptibility to lipid peroxidation; the role of erythrocyte glutathione (GSH) as an antioxidant; plasma lipid fractions; and the relationship between plasma lipid peroxides and antioxidant vitamin levels. Thiobarbituric acid-reactive substance (TBARS) levels were measured to determine the levels of plasma lipid peroxides and the susceptibility to lipid peroxidation when erythrocytes were stressed by hydrogen peroxide for 2 h h vitro. Erythrocyte TEARS production was significantly higher in patients with coronary atherosclerosis than in the controls. On the other hand, the levels of plasma high-density lipoproteins, vitamin C, vitamin E and erythrocyte GSH were significantly lower, and the levels of plasma total cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins and TBARS were significantly higher in the patients with coronary atherosclerosis than in the controls. In conclusion, our results indicate that erythrocytes from patients with coronary atherosclerosis are more susceptible to oxidation than those of controls and that these patients have lowered antioxidant capacity as revealed by decreased plasma levels of vitamins C and E.