The present study investigated the effects of the red microalga Porphyridium sp. on gastrointestinal physiology and lipid metabolism in male Sprague-Dawley rats. Diets containing dietary fibre from pelleted red microalgal cells (biomass) or their sulfated polysaccharide, pectin or cellulose (control) were fed to rats for a period of 30 d. All three fibre-supplemented diets increased the length of both small intestine and colon, with a significantly greater effect in rats fed the algal polysaccharide. The polysaccharide also increased mucosa and muscularis cross-sectional area of the jejunum, and caused hypertrophy in the muscularis layer. The algal biomass significantly lowered gastrointestinal transit time by 44 % in comparison with the control rats. Serum and mucosal cholecystokinin levels were lower in rats on the pectin and polysaccharide diets, while cholecystokinin levels in rats fed algal biomass were not different from those in the control animals. In comparison with the control diet, all the experimental diets significantly lowered serum cholesterol levels (22-29 %). Feeding of non-fermentable algal poltsaccharide or biomass significantly increased faecal weight and bile acid excretion compared with pectin-fed or control rats. The algal polysaccharide and biomass were thus shown to be potent hypocholesterolaemic agents active at low concentrations in the diet. Both metabolic and morphological changes were observed following consumption of algae, suggesting several possible mechanisms by which the alga affects lipid metabolism. The results presented in the present study encourage the use of red microalga as a functional food.