This study supports our previous hypotheses that normal human milk kills Giardia lamblia trophozoites in vitro and that this killing is due to the release of free fatty acids (FFAs) from milk triglycerides by action of the bile salt-stimulated lipase (BSL) of human milk. Heat-stable killing of G. lamblia was generated when normal human milk was preincubated with sodium cholate, which activates BSL. Moreover, both the skim-milk (containing BSL) and cream (containing mainly triglycerides) fractions were required to kill G. lamblia. We measured the toxicity of FFA and other products of lipolysis to G. lamblia. cis-Unsaturated FFAs (LD50 less than 12 microM), three of four monoglycerides, and four of five lysophosphatidylcholines were toxic to the parasites (LD50 less than 100 microM). In contrast, the parasites were not harmed by the corresponding diglycerides, phosphatidylcholines, triolein, or glycerol. Thus, products of lipid hydrolysis in the normal digestive tract are toxic to G. lamblia. We also demonstrated that albumin and conjugated bile salts, which bind FFA, partially protected trophozoites from killing by oleic acid.