Background: Autophagy is a cellular pathway with the ability to maintain cell homeostasis
through the elimination of damaged or useless cellular components, and its deregulation may initiate or
aggravate different human diseases. Flavonoids, a group of plant metabolites, are able to modulate different
molecular and cellular processes including autophagy.
Objective: To review the effects of flavonoids on autophagy pathway in both invasive and noninvasive
human diseases, focusing on the global outcomes in their progression. Moreover, the efficacy
of the combination of flavonoids with drugs or other natural nontoxic compounds was also reviewed.
Methods: A literature search was performed to identify and analyze peer-reviewed publications containing
in vitro and in vivo studies focused on autophagy deregulation in different proliferative and
non-proliferative pathologies and the potential protective effects of flavonoids.
Results: Analyzed publications indicated that imbalance between cell death and survival induced by
changes in autophagy play an important role in the pathophysiology of a number of human diseases.
The use of different flavonoids as autophagy modulators, alone or in combination with other molecules,
might be a worthy strategy in the treatment of cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, cardiovascular
diseases, hepatic diseases, leishmaniasis, influenza, gastric ulcers produced by Helicobacter pylori
infection, diabetes, asthma, age-related macular degeneration or osteoporosis.
Conclusion: Flavonoids could potentially constitute important adjuvant agents of conventional therapies
in the treatment of autophagy deregulation-related diseases. Moreover, combined therapy may
help to diminish the doses of those conventional treatments, leading to reduced drug-derivative side
effects and to improved patients' survival.