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Nutritional Supplement

Selenium

Possible Deficiencies

While most people probably don’t take in enough selenium, gross deficiencies are rare in Western countries. Soils in some areas are selenium-deficient and people who eat foods grown primarily on selenium-poor soils are at risk for deficiency. People with AIDS have been reported to be depleted in selenium.112 Similarly, limited research has reported an association between heart disease and depleted levels of selenium.113 People who are deficient in selenium have an increased risk of developing certain types of rheumatoid arthritis.114

Side Effects

Selenium is safe at the level people typically supplement (100–200 mcg); however, taking more than 900 mcg of selenium per day has been reported to cause adverse effects in some people.115 Selenium toxicity can result in loss of fingernails, skin rash, and changes in the nervous system. In the presence of iodine-deficiency-induced goiter, selenium supplementation has been reported to exacerbate low thyroid function.116 Although most research suggests that selenium prevents cancer, one study found an increased risk of a type of skin cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) in people taking selenium supplements.117 The National Academy of Sciences recommends that selenium intake not exceed 400 mcg per day, unless the higher intake is monitored by a healthcare professional.118 In a double-blind study of people who took 200 mcg of selenium per day for several years to prevent recurrences of skin cancer, the incidence of diabetes was higher in people who received selenium (9.7%) than in those who received a placebo (6.5%).119 While this difference was statistically significant, this finding should be considered preliminary, since the study was not originally designed to test whether selenium influences the risk of developing diabetes.

References

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67. Bahmani F, Kia M, Soleimani A, et al. Effect of Selenium Supplementation on Glycemic Control and Lipid Profiles in Patients with Diabetic Nephropathy. Biol Trace Elem Res 2016;172:282–9.

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69. Kahler W, Kuklinski B, Ruhlmann C, Plotz C. [Diabetes mellitus--a free radical-associated disease. Results of adjuvant antioxidant supplementation]. Z Gesamte Inn Med 1993;48:223–32.

70. Crary EJ, McCarty MF. Potential clinical applications for high-dose nutritional antioxidants. Med Hypotheses 1984;13:77-98.

71. Tarp U, Overvad K, Hansen JC, Thorling EB. Low selenium level in severe rheumatoid arthritis. Scand J Rheumatol 1985;14:97-101.

72. Aaseth J, Munthe E, Forre O, Steinnes E. Trace elements in serum and urine of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Scand J Rheumatol 1978;7:237-40.

73. Peretz A, Neve J, Duchateau J, Famaey JP. Adjuvant treatment of recent onset rheumatoid arthritis by selenium supplementation: preliminary observations. Br J Rheumatol 1992;31:281-2 [letter].

74. Tarp U, Overvad K, Thorling EB, et al. Selenium treatment in rheumatoid arthritis. Scand J Rheumatol 1985;14:364-8.

75. Juhlin L, Edqvist LE, Ekman LG, et al. Blood glutathione-peroxidase levels in skin diseases: effect of selenium and vitamin E treatment. Acta Derm Venereol 1982;62:211-4.

76. Ljunghall K, Juhlin L, Edqvist LE, Plantin LO. Selenium, glutathione-peroxidase and dermatitis herpetiformis. Acta Derm Venereol 1984;64:546-7.

77. Scott R, MacPherson A, Yates RWS, et al. The effect of oral selenium supplementation on human sperm motility. Br J Urol 1998;82:76-80.

78. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

79. Katz ML, Parker KR, Handelman GJ, et al. Effects of antioxidant nutrient deficiency on the retina and retinal pigment epithelium of albino rats: a light and electron microscopic study. Exp Eye Res 1982;34:339-69.

80. West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J, et al. Are anti-oxidants or supplements protective of age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol 1994:112:222-7.

81. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Antioxidant status and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1993:111:104-9.

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83. Smith W, Mitchell P, Webb K, Leeder SR. Dietary antioxidants and age-related maculopathy: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999;106:761-7.

84. Teikari JM, Laatikainen L, Virtamo J, et al. Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1998;76:224-9.

85. Rita Cardoso B, Apolinario D, da Silva Bandeira V, et al. Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Eur J Nutr 2015 Jan 8 [Epub ahead of print].

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94. Young RW. Solar radiation and age-related macular degeneration. Surv Ophthalmol 1988:32:252-69.

95. Katz ML, Parker KR, Handelman GJ, et al. Effects of antioxidant nutrient deficiency on the retina and retinal pigment epithelium of albino rats: a light and electron microscopic study. Exp Eye Res 1982;34:339-69.

96. West S, Vitale S, Hallfrisch J, et al. Are anti-oxidants or supplements protective of age-related macular degeneration? Arch Ophthalmol 1994:112:222-7.

97. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Antioxidant status and neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol 1993:111:104-9.

98. Goldberg J, Flowerdew G, Smith E, et al. Factors associated with age-related macular degeneration. Am J Epidemiol 1988:128:700-10.

99. Smith W, Mitchell P, Webb K, Leeder SR. Dietary antioxidants and age-related maculopathy: the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Ophthalmology 1999;106:761-7.

100. Teikari JM, Laatikainen L, Virtamo J, et al. Six-year supplementation with alpha-tocopherol and beta-carotene and age-related maculopathy. Acta Ophthalmol Scand 1998;76:224-9.

101. Thilly CH, Swennen B, Bourdoux P, et al. The epidemiology of iodine-deficiency disorders in relation to goitrogenic factors and thyroid-stimulating-hormone regulation. Am J Clin Nutr 1993;57(2 Suppl):267S-70S.

102. Contempre B, Dumont JE, Ngo B, et al. Effect of selenium supplementation in hypothyroid subjects of an iodine and selenium deficient area: the possible danger of indiscriminate supplementation of iodine-deficient subjects with selenium. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1991;73:213-5.

103. Vanderpas JB, Contempre B, Duale NL, et al. Selenium deficiency mitigates hypothyroxinemia in iodine-deficient subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1993 Feb;57(2 Suppl):271S-275S [review].

104. Rita Cardoso B, Apolinario D, da Silva Bandeira V, et al. Effects of Brazil nut consumption on selenium status and cognitive performance in older adults with mild cognitive impairment: a randomized controlled pilot trial. Eur J Nutr 2015 Jan 8 [Epub ahead of print].

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107. Pack ARC. Folate mouthwash: effects on established gingivitis in periodontal patients. J Clin Periodontol 1984;11:619-28.

108. Dawson EB, Nosovitch JT, Hannigan EV. Serum vitamin and selenium changes in cervical dysplasia. Fed Proc 1984;43:612.

109. Wassertheil-Smoller S, Romney SL, Wylie-Rosett J, et al. Dietary vitamin C and uterine cervical dysplasia. Am J Epidemiol 1981;114:714-24.

110. Ho GY, Palan PR, Basu J, et al. Viral characteristics of human papillomavirus infection and antioxidant levels as risk factors for cervical dysplasia. Int J Cancer 1998;78:594-9.

111. Yoshida M, Fukunaga K, Tsuchita H, Yasumoto K. An evaluation of the bioavailability of selenium in high-selenium yeast. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol 1999;45:119-28.

112. Dworkin BM. Selenium deficiency in HIV infection and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Chem Biol Interact 1994;91:181-6.

113. Moore JA, Noiva R, Wells IC. Selenium concentrations in plasma of patients with arteriographically defined coronary atherosclerosis. Clin Chem 1984;30:1171-3.

114. Knekt P, Heliovaara M, Aho K, et al. Serum selenium, serum alpha-tocopherol, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Epidemiology 2000;11:402-5.

115. Yang GQ, Zhou RH. Further observations on the human maximum safe dietary selenium intake in a seleniferous area of China. J Trace Elem Electrolytes Hlth Dis 1994;8:159-65.

116. Contempre B, Dumont JE, Ngo B, et al. Effect of selenium supplementation in hypothyroid subjects of an iodine and selenium deficient area: the possible danger of indiscriminate supplementation of iodine-deficient subjects with selenium. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1991;73:213-5.

117. Duffield-Lillico AJ, Slate EH, Reid ME, et al. Selenium supplementation and secondary prevention of nonmelanoma skin cancer in a randomized trial. J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:1477-81.

118. Panel on Dietary Antioxidants and Related Compounds, Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Carotenoids. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 2000.

119. Stranges S, Marshall JR, Natarajan R, et al. Effects of long-term selenium supplementation on the incidence of type 2 diabetes: a randomized trial. Ann Intern Med 2007;147:217-23.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2020.