Secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG) is an important dietary lignan that is found at very high levels in flaxseed (1–4 %, w/w). Flaxseed lignans have received much research interest in recent years because of reported phyto-oestrogenic, anticarcinogenic, and anti-atherogenic effects. Previously, flaxseed feeding has been shown to decrease vitamin E concentrations in rats despite the antioxidant potential of SDG in vitro. Sesamin, a sesame lignan, on the other hand has been shown to increase vitamin E concentrations in rats. The aim of the present study was to investigate the effect of dietary SDG and its oligomers on vitamin E and cholesterol concentrations in rats. SDG was extracted from defatted flaxseed flour with a dioxane–ethanol mixture and purified by silica column chromatography. The major oligomers with 3-hydroxy-3-methyl glutaric acid, containing a high ratio of SDG to p-coumaric and ferulic acid glucosides, were purified from the extracts by reversed-phase liquid chromatography. When fed to rats at 0·1 % in the diet for 27 d, both SDG and its oligomers had no effect on animal performance but caused an increase in liver cholesterol and a 2-fold reduction in the levels of α- and γ-tocopherols in rat plasma and liver. It is notable that a phenolic antioxidant, such as SDG, causes a vitamin E-lowering effect in rats. This cannot be explained at present, but warrants further investigations with respect to the magnitude, mechanism, and significance of the observed effect for human nutrition.