Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) refers to a group of fatty acid isomers of linoleic acid. Recent research shows that CLA affects body composition, lipoprotein metabolism, inflammationand carcinogenesis. Therefore, CLA may have potential as a therapeutic nutrient with respect to many common diseases, including obesity, atherosclerosis, chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. Animal studies show that CLA is a potent anti-adipogenic nutrient, reducing adipose tissue mass and increasing lean mass. However, the effect of CLA on body composition in human subjects has been less spectacular. Several studies have demonstrated that CLA significantly improves plasma cholesterol and triacylglycerol metabolism in a number of animal models. These studies also showed that CLA inhibits the progression and pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. Whilst CLA has also been shown toimprove triacylglycerol metabolism in human subjects, it has not been determined whether CLA affects atherogenesis. Animal models show that CLA-rich diets modulate the inflammatory response and preliminary trials with human subjects show that CLA affects the cell-mediated immune response. The molecular basis of the health effects of CLA has not been elucidated, but it is probable that CLA mediates its effect in a number of ways including altered eicosanoid or cytokine metabolism and/orby a direct effect of dietary fats on gene transcription. Most of our knowledge is based on in vitro and animal studies; the challenge is to define the nature and molecular basis of any health effects of CLA in human subjects.