The World Health Organization states that health promotion is a key strategy to improve health, and it is conceived as a global process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. Health promotion does not focus solely on empowering individuals dealing with their knowledge, attitudes and skills, but it also takes political, social, economic and environmental aspects influencing health and wellbeing into account. The complexity of applying these concepts is reflected in the five paradoxes in health promotion; these arise in between the rhetoric in health promotion and implementation. The detected paradoxes which are described herein involve the patient versus the person, the individual versus the group, disease professionals versus health professionals, disease indicators versus health indicators, and health as an expense versus health as an investment. Making these contradictions explicit can help determine why it is so complex to put the concepts related to health promotion into practice. It can also help to put forward aspects that need further work if health promotion is to put into practice. (C) 2017 SESPAS: Published by Elsevier Espaila, S.L.U.