BACKGROUND The effect of "intestinal transit" has become a new field of interest in the study of the pathogenesis of cholesterol gallstones. This study was undertaken to further test this notion and ascertain the relationship between impaired intestinal transit function and cholesterol gallstones. METHODS A total of 64 hamsters were divided into 2 groups, experimental and control. Each was subdivided into 4 subgroups for sacrifice at different time. A high-cholesterol diet and a standard diet were fed to each group. The geometric center, which represents the intestinal transit function was calculated. RESULTS The growth of all hamsters was normal. Cholesterol gallstones were found in 2 hamsters at the end of the 4th week. The geometric center values for the experimental and control groups were 2.3891+/-0.3923 vs. 2.7730+/-0.5283, at the end of week 3; 1.8148+/-0.4312 vs. 3.2294+/-1.1613 at week 4; 1.8451+/-0.3700 vs. 2.9075+/-0.3756 at week 5; and 1.8025+/-0.3413 vs. 3.0920+/-0.5622 at week 6. CONCLUSION A high cholesterol diet can significantly reduce the intestinal transit function and facilitate the formation of cholesterol gallstones.