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.