Chronic subcutaneous (s.c.) administration of d-galactose (DG) to BL/6J mice has been shown to induce oxidative stress and is considered a model to mimic accelerated ageing. Fructo-oligosaccharide (FO) is a well-defined prebiotic and its fermentation by lactic acid bacteria has been shown to exert antioxidative capacity. The present study was aimed to determine whether FO attenuated DG-induced oxidative stress and hepatopathy in Balb/cJ mice. Mice (12 weeks of age, n 40) were divided into control (s.c. saline), DG (s.c. 1·2 g/kg body weight), DG+FO (5 %, w/w) and DG+vitamin E (0·2 %, w/w) groups and were killed after 52 d of treatment. Results indicated that DG significantly decreased the hepatic superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase activities. These alterations were ameliorated both by FO and vitamin E. DG increased the hepatic TAG content approximately by 7·2 % compared with the vehicle control, which was in agreement with the histological alteration. FO, similar to vitamin E, almost normalised the hepatic TAG content and ameliorated the histological characteristics of fatty liver. Similarly, the increased plasma alanine aminotransferase activity induced by DG was normalised by FO and vitamin E, respectively. Faecal bifidobacteria counts were greater in the DG+FO and DG+vitamin E groups compared with the DG group, respectively. In conclusion, the present study indicated that FO diminished the altered hepatic antioxidative enzyme activities and morphology caused by chronic DG administration in Balb/cJ mice, partially associated with its prebiotic role in the colon.