Hypercholesterolaemia is one of the risk factors for atherosclerosis and subsequent cardiovascular disease. Here, we investigated the effects of dietary supplementation with Ilex latifolia or green tea (Camellia sinensis) on the levels of plasma total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and circulating immune complexes in Sprague Dawley rats fed with a high-cholesterol diet. We demonstrated that daily administration by gavage of I. latifolia or C. sinensis at doses of 1.0 or 2.0 g/kg body weight for 30 days resulted in a significant decrease in plasma total cholesterol levels and circulating immune complexes and an increase in high-density lipoprotein cholesterol in rats fed with a high-cholesterol diet compared with levels in the high-cholesterol diet control group. C. sinensis was more effective than I. latifolia. I. latifolia and C. sinensis could be used as food supplements to protect against the development of hypercholesterolaemia. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.