The effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), in particular conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), on Ca and bone metabolism is unclear. In a 2 X 2 factorial design study, forty male 4-week-old rats were fed a control diet containing 70 g added fat (soyabean oil (SBO; n-6 PUFA-rich diet) or menhaden oil-safflower oil (MSO; n-3 PUFA-rich diet))/kg diet with 0 or 10 g CLA/kg for 8 weeks. Ex vivo prostaglandin E, biosynthesis by bone organ culture was significantly higher (P<0.001) in rats consuming SBO compared with MSO, irrespective of CLA. 9 Addition of the CLA treatment to either diet further lowered (P<0.05) ex vivo prostaglandin E-2 production. Neither PUFA type nor CLA altered circulating or femoral mRNA levels of osteocalcin (a marker of bone formation) or insulin-like growth factor-I (a mediator of bone metabolism). While urinary pyridinium crosslinks levels (markers of bone resorption) were unaffected by CLA irrespective of PUFA type, they were significantly higher (P<0.05) in rats consuming SBO compared with MSO irrespective of CLA. Net fractional (%) and absolute (mg) Ca absorption were significantly (P<0.01 and P<0.05 respectively) higher in CLA-supplemented than unsupplemented animals fed on the n-3 PUFA-rich diet, whereas CLA had no effect in animals fed the n-6 PUFA-rich diet. There was no effect of CLA supplementation on bone mineral mass. In conclusion, CLA supplementation over 8 weeks appeared to enhance Ca absorption in young growing rats fed an n-3 PUFA-rich diet, but had no measurable effect on bone metabolism or bone mass over this time frame.