This study was carried out on young (20-35 years) and old (60-85 years) men and rats (6 vs 22 months) to investigate the effect of aging on plasma lipid peroxidation and the antioxidant system. Plasma polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), total fatty acid (TFA) and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels increased in aged humans and rats compared with young groups. However, plasma MDA/TFA ratios did not increase in aged humans and rats. Plasma vitamin E/TFA, and total thiol content were found to decrease both in aged humans and rats. Plasma antioxidant activity (AOA) decreased only in aged rats. In addition, the susceptibility of VLDL + LDL, apolipoprotein B containing lipoproteins to copper-induced peroxidation increased with aging. It is concluded that aging is associated with some variations in plasma oxidant-antioxidant balance. (C) 1997 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.