Abstract Elevated levels of plasma high density lipoprotein (HDL) are strongly predictive of protection against atherosclerotic vascular disease. HDL particles likely have several beneficial actions in vivo, including the initiation of reverse cholesterol transport. The apparent importance of oxidative modification of low density lipoprotein in atherogenesis raises the question of how oxidative modification of HDL might affect its cardioprotective actions. HDL is readily oxidized using numerous models of lipoprotein oxidation. In vitro evidence suggests oxidation might impair some protective actions, but actually enhance other mechanisms induced by HDL that prevent the accumulation of cholesterol in the artery wall. This article reviews the current literature concerning the relative oxidizability of HDL, the structural changes induced in HDL by oxidation in vitro, and the potential consequences of oxidative modification on the protective actions of HDL in vivo.