Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) induces a body fat loss that is enhanced in mice fed coconut oil (CO), which lacks essential fatty acids (EFA). Our objective was to determine if CO enhancement of CLA-induced body fat loss is due to the lack of EFA. The CLA-EFA interaction was tested by feeding CO and fat free (FF) diets for varying times with and without replenishment of individual EFA. Mice fed CO during only the 2-week CLA-feeding period did not differ from control mice in their adipose EFA content but still tended (P=0.06) to be leaner than mice fed soy oil (SO). Mice raised on CO or FF diets and fed CLA were leaner than the SO+CLA-fed mice (P<0.01). Mice raised on CO and then replenished with linoleic, linolenic, or arachidonic acid were leaner when fed CLA than mice raised on SO (P<0.001). Body fat of CO+CLA-fed mice was not affected by EFA addition. In summary, CO-fed mice not lacking in tissue EFA responded more to CLA than SO-fed mice. Also, EFA addition to CO diets did not alter the enhanced response to CLA. Therefore, the increased response to CLA in mice raised on CO or FF diets appears to be independent of a dietary EFA deficiency.