Several studies suggest that polyphenols might exert a protective effect against osteopenia. The present experiment was conducted to observe the effects of rutin (quercetin-3-O-glucose rhamnose) on bone metabolism in ovariectomized (OVX) rats. Thirty 3-month-old Wistar rats were used. Twenty were OVX while the 10 controls were sham-operated (SH). Among the 20 OVX, for 90 days after surgery 10 were fed the same synthetic diet as the SH or OVX ones, but 0. 25% rutin (OVX + R) was added. At necropsy, the decrease in uterine weight was not different in OVX and OVX + R rats. Ovariectomy also induced a significant decrease in both total and distal metaphyseal femoral mineral density, which was prevented by rutin consumption. Moreover, femoral failure load, which was not different in OVX and SH rats, was even higher in OVX + R rats than in OVX or SH rats. In the same way, on day 90, both urinary deoxypyridinoline (DPD) excretion (a marker for bone resorption) and calciuria were higher in OVX rats than in OVX + R or SH rats. Simultaneously, plasma osteocalcin (OC) concentration (a marker for osteoblastic activity) was higher in OVX + R rats than in SH rats. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) profiles of plasma samples from OVX + R rats revealed that mean plasma concentration of active metabolites (quercetin and isorhamnetin) from rutin was 9.46+/-1 microM, whereas it was undetectable in SH and OVX rats. These results indicate that rutin (and/or its metabolites), which appeared devoid of any uterotrophic activity, inhibits ovariectomy-induced trabecular bone loss in rats, both by slowing down resorption and increasing osteoblastic activity.