Reactive oxygen species play a role in a number of degenerative conditions including osteoporosis. Flavonoids as phyto-oestrogens exert physiological effects against oxidative stress diseases. We developed a retinoic acid-induced bone loss model of rats to assess whether flavonoids and alendronate as positive control have role against oxidative stress and mineral contents in osteoporosis in vivo. Three-month-old female rats of the Y59 strain were given quercetin, chrysin, naringenin (100 mg kg(-1)) or alendronate (40 mg kg(-1), a positive control) immediately before retinoic acid treatment (80 mg kg(-1)) once daily for 14 days by a single intragastric (i.g.) application. In the second part of the study, we assessed the effect of those flavonoids on the skeletal system of healthy rats using single i.g. application on the respective flavonoids during 14 days. Twenty-four hours after the treatment, we analysed bone mineral density and the total content of bone calcium and phosphorus in the femur, the geometric and physical characteristics of thigh bones and lipid peroxidation and glutathione levels of liver and kidney cells. All flavonoids improved the decrease in bone weight coefficient, the length and the diameter of the bone, the content of bone ash and calcium and phosphorus content induced by retinoic acid. Chrysin and quercetin showed promise as preventive agents. Flavonoids were superior to alendronate according to some criteria. These results suggest that the dietary flavonoids could reduce retinoic acid-induced oxidative stress and bone loss and that flavonoids may be useful therapeutics for prevention of skeletal diseases.