Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has been suggested by some animal studies to possess antiatherogenic properties. To determine, in humans, the effect of dietary CLA on blood lipids, lipoproteins, and tissue fatty acid composition, we conducted a 93-d study with 17 healthy female volunteers at the Metabolic Research Unit of the Western Human Nutrition Research Center. Throughout the study, subjects were fed a low-fat diet [30 energy percent (en%) fat, 19 en% protein, and 51 en% carbohydrate] that consisted of natural foods with the recommended dietary allowances for all known nutrients. After a 30-d stabilization period, subjects were randomly assigned to either an intervention group (n = 10) supplemented daily with capsules containing 3.9 g of CLA or a control group (n = 7) that received an equivalent amount of sunflower oil. The CLA capsules (CLA 65%) contained four major cis/trans geometric isomers (11.4% 9 cis-,11 trans-18:2; 10.8% 8 trans-,10 cis-18:2; 15.3% 11 cis-,13 trans-18:2; and 14.7% 10 trans-,12 cis-18:2) and their corresponding cis/cis (6.74% total) and trans/trans (5.99% total) varieties in smaller amounts. Fasting blood was drawn on study days 30 (end of the stabilization period), 60 (midpoint of the intervention period), and 93 (end of the intervention period). Adipose tissue samples were taken on days 30 and 93. CLA supplementation for 63 d did not change the levels of plasma cholesterol, low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides. The weight percentage of CLA in plasma increased from 0.28 +/- 0.06 to 1.09 +/- 0.31 (n = 10, P < 0.05) after the supplementation. The 9 cis-,11 trans-isomer was the most prominent variety followed by the 11 cis-,13 trans- and 10 trans-,12 cis-isomers in lesser amounts. CLA in adipose tissue was not influenced by the supplementation (0.79 +/- 0.18 to 0.83 +/- 0.19 wt%) (n = 10) and the 9 cis-,11 trans-variety was the only isomer present. Thus, contrary to findings from some animal studies, CLA does not seem to offer health benefits, in the short term, regarding the prevention of atherosclerosis in humans. CLA supplementation for 2 mon did not alter the blood cholesterol or lipoprotein levels of healthy, normolipidemic subjects. The supplementation did increase CLA in the plasma but only 4.23% of the ingested CLA was present in the plasma at any given time. No adverse effect of CLA supplementation was detected in this study.