The association between dietary and lifestyle factors and intermittent claudication was investigated in the Finnish Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention Study. The cohort comprised 26,872 male smokers aged 50-69 years who were free of claudication at study entry. At baseline (1985-1988), subjects completed a diet history questionnaire. During a median follow-up period of 4 years (ending in spring 1993), 2,578 men reported symptoms of claudication on the Rose questionnaire, which was administered annually. Smoking status was assessed every 4 months. Smoking, systolic blood pressure, serum total cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus were positively associated with risk for claudication, whereas serum high density lipoprotein cholesterol, education, and leisure time exercise were inversely associated with risk. Dietary carbohydrates, fiber, and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids were inversely associated with risk for claudication, as were some dietary and serum antioxidants: dietary vitamin C (highest quartile vs. lowest: relative risk (RR) = 0.86; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.77, 0.97), dietary gamma-tocopherol (RR = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.79, 1.00), dietary carotenoids (RR = 0.82; 95% CI: 0.73, 0.92), serum alpha-tocopherol (RR = 0.88; 95% CI: 0.77, 1.00), and serum beta-carotene (RR = 0.77; 95% CI: 0.68, 0.86). Smoking cessation reduced subsequent risk for claudication (RR = 0.86; 95% CI: 0.75, 0.99). The authors conclude that classical risk factors for atherosclerosis are associated with claudication. High intakes of antioxidant vitamins may be protective. Further research is needed before antioxidants can be recommended for the prevention of intermittent claudication.