Selenium may decrease diabetes risk: French study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Blood sugar Selenium

Increased blood levels of selenium may decrease a man’s risk of abnormal blood sugar metabolism, and maybe protect against diabetes, says a new study from France.

Levels of the minerals did not affect the risk of abnormal blood sugar metabolism (dysglycemia) in women, however, according to findings published in Nutrition & Metabolism​.

“We need to identify the optimal range of selenium status and intake that will minimize potential adverse effects on glucose metabolism while optimizing type 2 diabetes prevention,”​ wrote the researchers, led by Tasnime Akbaraly from the University of Montpellier I.

“This may allow us to target a population that might benefit from selenium supplementation.”

Europe versus America

The study is of added importance in Europe where selenium levels have been falling Europe since the EU imposed levies on wheat imports from the US, where soil selenium levels are high.

As a result, average intake of selenium in the UK has fallen from 60 to 34 micrograms per day, leading to calls from some to enrich soil and fertilizers with selenium to boost public consumption. Selenium-enriched fertilizers are used in Finland.

The European recommended daily intake (RDI) is 65 micrograms. The recommended EC Tolerable Upper Intake Level for selenium is 300 micrograms per day.

Study details

Akbaraly and her co-wokrers followed 1,162 healthy French men and women for nine years and documented 70 new cases of dysglycemia in men and 57 cases in women.

The average selenium blood level at the start of the study was 1.08 micromoles per litre in men and 1.1 micromoles per litre for women. Men with the highest selenium levels (1.19-1.97 micromoles per litre) were 50 per cent less likely to develop dysglycemia than men with the lowest average levels.

“The reason we observed a protective effect of selenium in men but not in women is not completely clear, but might be attributed to women being healthier at baseline, having better antioxidant status in general and possible differences in how men and women process selenium,”​ said Akbaraly.

Health claims

The mineral was recently the subject of positive opinions from EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA), which concluded that selenium could offer “protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, normal function of the immune system, normal thyroid function and normal spermatogenesis.”

However, claims linking the mineral and normal cognitive function, normal prostate function and normal function of the heart and blood vessels, were dismissed.

Source: Nutrition & Metabolism
18 March 2010, 7​:21
“Plasma selenium and risk of dysglycemia in an elderly French population: Results from the prospective Epidemiology of Vascular Ageing Study”
Authors: T.N. Akbaraly, J. Arnaud, M.P. Rayman, I. Hininger-Favier, A-M. Roussel, C. Berr, A. Fontbonne
The full study is available here.

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