Selenium: Ongoing trials to reverse negative press and boost sagging sales?

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Selenium Prostate cancer Vitamin e

Sales of selenium in natural and conventional channels fell 14 percent year on year, but hope is on the horizon as ongoing trials may show that the form of selenium makes a difference.

According to new data from SPINS, sales of supplements with selenium as the principle ingredient were $4.7 million for the current 52-week period ending May 2011 from $5.5 million versus the prior period.

Paul Willis, CEO and president from Cypress Systems, a Fresno-based biotechnology company and producer of high selenium yeast, said that decline is due “in large part to the negative press created by the 2008 termination of the SELECT trial by the National Cancer Institute (NCI)”.

The Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial (SELECT)​ randomly assigned over 35,000 men to receive daily selenium as selenomethionine, vitamin E, both, or placebo. After almost five and a half years, no significant differences were observed between any of the groups in relation to prostate cancer risk.

Form makes a difference

“Unfortunately, at the time of this announcement NCI simply released a statement that selenium and vitamin E did not work in the prevention of prostate cancer,”​ Willis told NutraIngredients-USA.

“Much to our dismay and the frustration of the whole selenium research community, NCI did not distinguish between the form of selenium and vitamin E that were used by SELECT. They simple lumped it all together and stated selenium and vitamin E did not work.

“As with many of the leading selenium and oncology research teams, Cypress strongly maintains that form does make a difference,”​ he added.

“The research proven form, SelenoExcell High Selenium Yeast, is a natural food form of selenium that has shown positive cancer prevention and health benefits in gold standard clinical research.

“We believe as do many of the leading selenium and oncology research teams, that on-going research will show that NCI did use the wrong form in selenomethionine. Until that happens we have to deal with the unjustified negative press related to SELECT,” ​added Willis.

The mineral

Selenium is an essential macronutrient, and is considered to be an antioxidant. High levels of selenium have been inversely associated with risk of developing several cancers, including bladder, prostate and thryroid.

The trace element occurs naturally in the soil and is absorbed by plants and crops, from where it enters the human food chain - either directly or through consumption of meat and other products from grazing animals.

The mineral is included in between 50 and 100 different proteins in the body, with multifarious roles including building heart muscles and healthy sperm. However, cancer prevention remains one of the major benefits of selenium, and it is the only mineral that qualifies for a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved qualified health claim for general cancer reduction incidence.

Importance of selenium

A recent review paper by Joyce McCann and Bruce Ames​ from the Nutrition and Metabolism Center at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute in Oakland (CHORI) indicated that moderate deficiency in selenium may have long-term detrimental effects (FASEB Journal​, 2011, Vol. 25, pp. 1793-1814).

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