Patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, long-lasting nephrotic syndrome and serum creatinine less than 2 mg/dl ate sequentially, in a randomized cross-over design, a normal protein diet containing 1.1 +/- 0.3 g/kg/day of proteins and a low protein diet containing 0.7 +/- 0.1 g/kg/day of protein, each diet for a period of 3 months. Both diets were low in fat (less than 30% of total calories) and cholesterol (less than 200 mg/day) content and rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and in linoleic acid (10% of energy). Random assignment to one of the two 3 month diet periods was done after a RUN-IN period of at least one month on the hypolipidic normal protein diet. Glomerular filtration rate (inulin clearance), 24 hour urinary protein loss and serum albumin concentration did not significantly differ at the end of the two diet periods, indicating that long-term restriction of protein intake does not modify GFR or urinary protein loss in nephrotic patients. Serum total and LDL-cholesterol and daily proteinuria were significantly lower at the end of both diet periods than at the beginning and at the end of the RUN-IN period. These changes were a consequence of the manipulation of dietary fat intake.