The in vitro antioxidant activity and the protective effect against human low density lipoprotein oxidation of coffees prepared using different degrees of roasting was evaluated. Coffees with the highest amount of brown pigments (dark coffee) showed the highest peroxyl radical scavenging activity. These coffees also protected human low-density lipoprotein (LDL) against oxidation, although green coffee extracts showed more protection. In a different experiment, coffee extracts were incubated with human plasma prior to isolation of LDL particles. This showed, for the first time, that incubation of plasma with dark, but not green coffee extracts protected the LDL against oxidation by copper or by the thermolabile azo compound AAPH. Antioxidants in the dark coffee extracts must therefore have become associated with the LDL particles. Brown compounds, especially those derived from the Maillard reaction, are the compounds most likely to be responsible for this activity.