Inflammation is a hallmark of the metabolic syndrome, which also contributes to a pro-atherogenic state. NF-κB activation, a critical step in regulating inflammatory reactions, can be inhibited by polyphenol (PF) extracts, at least in vitro. In the present study, we set out to study whether a PF-rich extract could attenuate the chronic inflammatory state and/or an acute immune response in vivo in subjects with clustered metabolic risk factors. A commercially available, PF-rich extract (500 mg daily) or placebo was administered for 4 weeks to thirty-four subjects with two or more metabolic risk factors using a randomised, double-blind, cross-over design. During the final study visit, an acute inflammatory challenge (lipopolysaccharide (LPS) 1 ng/kg body weight) was administered to a random subgroup of subjects (PF-rich extract (n 12) and placebo (n 12)). The PF-rich extract modestly reduced the inflammatory chemokines monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 (MCP-1) and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) (MCP-1 − 6·5 % (PF, median 116 (interquartile range 97–136) pg/ml v. placebo, median 124 (interquartile range 105–153) pg/ml; P < 0·05); MIF − 10·8 % (PF, median 2512 (interquartile range 1898–3972) pg/ml v. placebo, median 2814·5 (interquartile range 2296–3852) pg/ml; P < 0·05); however, other measured markers of inflammation and cardiometabolic disease, such as C-reactive protein, IL-6, HDL-cholesterol, adiponectin and oxidised LDL, remained unaffected. Following the LPS challenge, we found a statistically significant 48 % reduction of MCP-1 production in the PF-rich extract group (n 12) v. placebo (n 12) over 6 h (PF 766 (sd 155) v. placebo 1466 (sd 989) ng/ml; P < 0·05, area under the curve). In conclusion, short-term oral administration of the PF-rich extract caused a modest anti-inflammatory effect in subjects with clustered metabolic risk factors. Further dose-ranging studies are needed to evaluate whether and to what extent PF-rich extracts can be used to reduce the pro-inflammatory state in subjects with metabolic diseases at increased cardiovascular risk.