Hypercholesterolemia is a major risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Natural compounds have been proved to be useful in lowering serum cholesterol to slow down the progression of cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. In the present study, the hypocholesterolemic and hepatoprotective effects of the dietary consumption of chlorogenic acid were investigated by monitoring plasma lipid profile (total cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein) in Sprague–Dawley rats fed with a normal diet, a high-cholesterol diet or a high-cholesterol diet supplemented with chlorogenic acid (1 or 10 mg/kg/day p.o.) for 28 days. Chlorogenic acid markedly altered the increased plasma total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein but decreased high-density lipoprotein induced by a hypercholesterolemic diet with a dose-dependent improvement on both atherogenic index and cardiac risk factor. Lipid depositions in liver were attenuated significantly in hypercholesterolemic animals supplemented with chlorogenic acid. It is postulated that hypocholesterolemic effect is the primary beneficial effect given by chlorogenic acid, which leads to other secondary beneficial effects such as atheroscleroprotective, cardioprotective and hepatoprotective functions. The hypocholesterolemic functions of chlorogenic acid are probably due to the increase in fatty acids unitization in liver via the up-regulation of peroxisome proliferation-activated receptor α mRNA. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.