OBJECTIVE: The purpose of the study was to test the hypothesis that dietary fat components were associated with the serum lipid profile independent of ethnicity, body fat, and fat distribution in prepubertal children. RESEARCH METHODS AND PROCEDURES: Sixty-six children (45 African American and 21 Caucasian), aged from 4 to 10 years, were recruited into the study. Dietary total fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat were estimated by averaging two 24-hour diet recalls. Fasting serum triacylglycerol, total cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were analyzed, and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) was calculated by the method of Friedewald. Body composition and fat distribution were measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry and computed tomography. RESULTS: Children in both ethnic groups tended to overreport their dietary intake relative to total energy expenditure by 18%. African American children consumed more energy from total fat (35.3% vs. 31.5%, p<0.05), saturated fat (13.7% vs 12.2%, p<0.05), protein (16.4% vs. 13.2%, p=0.02), and less from carbohydrate (48% vs. 57.1%, p<0.01) than Caucasian children. There was no significant correlation between dietary fat and either serum lipids or body fat indices after adjusting for nonfat energy intake and total lean tissue mass. Total body fat (r=0.32), subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (r=0.39), and intra-abdominal adipose tissue (r=0.42) were positively related to serum triacylglycerol; these associations remained significant in a multiple linear regression model in which body fat indices were adjusted for ethnicity, total lean tissue, dietary total fat, and nonfat intake. DISCUSSION: Our results do not support a link between dietary fat and serum lipids; instead, our data suggest that body fat may play a more important role than dietary fat in the course of cardiovascular disease development in prepubertal children.