The potential health benefits of phenolic acids found in food and beverages has been suggested from a number of large population studies. However, the mechanism of how these compounds may exert biological effects is less well established. It is also now recognised that many complex polyphenols in the diet are metabolised to simple phenolic acids which can be taken up in the circulation. In this paper a number of selected phenolic compounds have been tested for their bioactivity in two cell culture models. The expression and activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in human aortic endothelial cells and the uptake of glucose in muscle cells. Our data indicate that while none of the compounds tested had a significant effect on eNOS expression or activation in endothelial cells, several of the compounds increased glucose uptake in muscle cells. These compounds also enhanced the translocation of the glucose transporter GLUT4 to the plasma membrane, which may explain the observed increase in cellular glucose uptake. These results indicate that simple cell culture models may be useful to help understand the bioactivity of phenolic compounds in relation to cardiovascular protection.