Plant derived products are consumed by a large percentage of the population to prevent, delay and ameliorate disease burden; however, relatively little is known about the efficacy, safety and underlying mechanisms of these traditional health products, especially when taken in concert with pharmaceutical agents. The flavonoids are a group of plant metabolites that are common in the diet and appear to provide some health benefits. While flavonoids are primarily derived from soy, many are found in fruits, nuts and more exotic sources, e.g., kudzu. Perhaps the strongest evidence for the benefits of flavonoids in diseases of aging relates to their effect on components of the metabolic syndrome. Flavonoids from soy, grape seed, kudzu and other sources all lower arterial pressure in hypertensive animal models and in a limited number of tests in humans. They also decrease the plasma concentration of lipids and buffer plasma glucose. The underlying mechanisms appear to include antioxidant actions, central nervous system effects, gut transport alterations, fatty acid sequestration and processing, PPAR activation and increases in insulin sensitivity. In animal models of disease, dietary flavonoids also demonstrate a protective effect against cognitive decline, cancer and metabolic disease. However, research also indicates that the flavonoids can be detrimental in some settings and, therefore, are not universally safe. Thus, as the population ages, it is important to determine the impact of these agents on prevention/attenuation of disease, including optimal exposure (intake, timing/duration) and potential contraindications. © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.