Lipids are important components in human nutrition; however, their increased intake contributes to the development of obesity and can lead to multiple long-term complications. Pancreatic lipase (triacylglycerol acylhydrolase, EC 220.127.116.11) is a key enzyme for the absorption of dietary triglycerides. Interference with fat hydrolysis results in the reduced utilization of ingested lipids, therefore inhibition of lipases decreases fat absorption. Extracts from 106 species of medicinal plants, vegetables and fruits were screened for potential lipase inhibitory activity. p-Nitrophenylpalmitate and 5-bromo-4-chloro-3-indoxylpalmitate were used as substrates in an in vitro test with crude porcine pancreatic lipase. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), garden pea (Pisum sativum), Norway spruce (Picea abies) and large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos) extracts were the most active. Additionally, the activity of selected extracts with removed polyphenols was measured. Extracts of bearberry, garden pea and large-leaved lime are a promising source for developing functional foods or isolating active compounds. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.