Conjugated linoleic acids (CLA) have been shown to have anti-carcinogenic, anti-obesity, anti-atherogenic and immunomodulatory functions. The basis for these effects has not been fully explained, but probably involves effects of CLA on eicosanoid metabolism, cytokine production and\or gene expression. The predominant isomer (85–90%) in the natural sources of CLA has the cis-9, trans-11 configuration. As interest in CLA grew and synthetic forms became available, the number of studies examining the effects of dietary CLA in rodents, human subjects and livestock has increased greatly. In the late 1990 s the observation that CLA had anti-obesity effects was reported. Subsequently, it was determined that this effect in mice could be attributed to the trans-10, cw-12 isomer that, along with the cis-9,trans-11 isomer, predominates in the synthetic forms of CLA. The santi-obesity response varies in magnitude depending on species, and has not been consistent in non-rodents. In general, the response is greatest in mice and less or absent in other species. The basis for this lack of consistency is not clear and is unlikely to be accounted for by differences in the source of CLA. In the pig variation in body fat of animals may account for differences in responsiveness. There is no direct evidence of an anti-carcinogenic effect of CLA in human subjects or livestock. Indirect evidence from in vitro studies with cell lines, as well as epidemiological studies, suggest that CLA may be relevant as a natural anti-carcinogen. The immunomodulatory effects of CLA may have application in livestock production as an alternative to the use of feed antibiotics, or as a means of improving the response to vaccination and conferring disease resistance. The recent literature on the effects of CLA, with emphasis on its anti-obesity effects, is reviewed.