Thirty-six patients with coronary artery disease participated in a controlled trial of the influence of food intake on central hemodynamic parameters determined noninvasively by radionuclide cardiography. Stroke volume increased considerably (23%) and heart rate was slightly higher (8%) half an hour after the meal, whereas the elevated cardiac output two hours postprandially could be ascribed entirely to relative tachycardia. No significant hemodynamic changes occurred in the patients who fasted. That the left ventricular ejection fraction was increased postprandially (3% to 4%) indicated that food intake had positive inotropic as well as chronotropic effects on the ischemic heart, even in heart failure. Afterload reduction and increased sympathetic nervous activity contribute to the changes, but the primary mechanism may be a change in resistance and blood flow in the intestinal vascular bed involved in digestion.