Aim of this study was to compare the effects of L-arginine (L-arg) and food-antioxidant butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) against oxidative stress of Escherichia coli endotoxin (LPS) in liver. Ninety Wistar albino rats were assigned in three groups. Rats received one of the following pre-treatment previous to 5 mg/kg LPS intraperitoneally: saline, L-arg (NO donor, 100 mg/kg) or BHT (250 mg/kg/day), for 3 days. At second, fourth and sixth hours, plasma nitrite-plus-nitrate, circulating liver enzymes, glutathione levels, superoxide dismutase, glutathione peroxidase activities were measured. The most remarkable liver injury was evident in BHT pre-treated animals at all time points compared to L-arg pre-treated rats. While BHT enhanced superoxide dismutase activities following LPS, glutathione decreased simultaneously compared to L-arg group. Although the risk associated with the use of BHT alone in subthreshold doses appeared to be low, higher risk of liver toxicity should be considered when over-consuming this food additive in endotoxemic settings. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.