BACKGROUND--The precise mechanism leading to the post-prandial worsening of angina has yet to be adequately defined. It has been attributed to an increase in double product but is perhaps more likely to be related to an increase in cardiac output after food. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of food on patients' exercise tolerance and compare these with changes in haemodynamic variables. METHODS--23 patients with chronic stable angina who had post-prandial worsening of their angina were studied. The patients were evaluated on two occasions and at each visit they underwent two symptom limited treadmill exercise tests. They remained fasting on the first visit and were given a 1400 kcal meal 60 minutes before the second exercise test on the second visit. Time to onset of 1 mm ST segment depression, heart rate, systemic arterial blood pressure, and cardiac output were measured at rest and during exercise. RESULTS--There were no differences in any of the variables during the two exercise tests on the day the patients remained fasting. After the meal exercise tolerance fell significantly by 136 seconds and the stage at which 1 mm ST segment depression was first seen was also significantly reduced. Resting cardiac output increased significantly by 0.86 1/min with the patients sitting and by 0.89 1/min standing. The exercise times after food were significantly related to cardiac output even when fasting times were taken into account. Resting heart rate increased significantly by 8.3 beats per minute sitting and 10.4 beats per minute standing. There was little change in blood pressure and no evidence that the double product predicted the post-prandial exercise time. CONCLUSIONS--Worsening of angina was related to the increase in cardiac output after a meal and successful treatment will depend upon the prevention of this increase.