The aim of the study was to analyze the differences between older and younger Poles in functional food consumption, awareness of metabolic syndrome risk and perceived barriers to health improvement. A national representative sample of 1005 adults aged 15+ was selected for the study. The eldest age group (65+ years) more often than the youngest age group (15-24 years) reported having high blood cholesterol (OR = 12.30), high blood pressure (OR = 10.61), central obesity (OR = 7.94), high blood sugar (OR = 4.33), high stress level (OR = 2.12). A smaller number of the older in comparison to the younger consumed probiotic yoghurt drinks (OR = 0.48), foods with added vitamins and/or minerals (OR = 0.31), energy drinks (OR = 0.05) at least once a week. Younger people were more likely to report that they were ready to increase physical activity (OR = 0.21), cut down on or stop smoking (OR = 0.48) or drink less alcohol (OR = 0.46), but more of them would prefer to take medicines than food-related intervention (OR = 3.05). Older people rarely complained about a lack of time (OR = 0.26) to improve their health. In conclusion, intervention to promote a healthy lifestyle to prevent and treat metabolic syndrome would need to target older Poles. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.