ABSTRACT: Hypercholesterolemic hamsters were fed for 4 wk on diets rich in saturated fatty acids and cholesterol, differing only in protein source (20 %): casein (control group, HC), whole cowpea seed (HWS), and cowpea protein isolate (HPI). Hamsters fed on HWS and HPI presented significant reductions in plasma total cholesterol and non-HDL cholesterol. HPI and HC presented similar protein digestibility, which were significantly higher than that of HWS. Animals fed on HWS presented significantly higher levels of bile acids and cholesterol in feces than did the animals fed on casein or HPI diets. Histological analyses of the liver showed that HC diet resulted in steatosis widely distributed throughout the hepatic lobule, while HWS and HPI diets promoted reductions in liver steatosis. The effectiveness of HWS for modulating lipid metabolism was greater than that of HPI, as measured by plasma cholesterol reduction and liver steatosis.