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Selenium

Dietary selenium affects mood states of healthy adults. Dr. Penland supervises the Mineral Element Nutrition, Neurophsychological Function and Behavior Research Laboratory also known as the Psychology Research Group.

A government report has revealed that most people in the UK are not getting sufficient amounts of the trace element selenium in their diet. These low levels could have serious implications on our health. Selenium is a vital nutrient required to activate thyroid hormone and for the production of the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase, and there is accumulating evidence linking low levels of selenium with cancer. MAFF report Food Surveillance Information Sheet No.51

A study undertaken at the University of Tampere, Finland provided further evidence. Blood samples taken from over 20,000 men were frozen and compared 11 years later with the mens' medical records. The researchers found that the men who developed lung cancer had had low levels of selenium in their blood and overall, it was found that men with the lowest levels of selenium were more than three times likely to develop lung cancer than those with high levels of selenium. The researchers concluded that "poor selenium nutrition is a highly significant factor for lung cancer". Kneckt P et al. 'Selenium Deficiency and Increased Risk of Lung Cancer' Abstract of paper read at the Fourth International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine, Tubingen. West Germany. July 1988.

In West Germany, researchers found a link with skin cancer and low levels of selenium. 101 patients with skin cancer were examined at the University of Bonn and blood selenium levels were compared with a control group of healthy people. The researchers found that skin cancer patients had significantly lower levels of selenium and concluded that low levels of selenium preceded the onset of skin cancer and may even have contributed to its cause.Reinhold U et al. 'Selenium Deficiency and Lethal Skin Cancer'. Abstract of paper read at the Fourth International Symposium on Selenium in Biology and Medicine, Tubingen. West Germany. July 1988.

Another study found that men consuming the most dietary selenium (assessed indirectly by measuring toenail selenium levels) developed 65% fewer cases of advanced prostate cancer than did men with the lowest levels of selenium intake. Yoshizawa K, Willett WC, Morris SJ, et al. Study of prediagnostic selenium levels in toenails and the risk of advanced prostate cancer. J Natl Cancer Inst 1998;90:1219–24.

Selenium is also essential for healthy immune functioning. Selenium supplementation has reduced the incidence of viral hepatitis in selenium-deficient populations, presumably by enhancing immune function. Yu S-Y, Li W-G, Zhu Y-J, et al. Chemoprevention trial of human hepatitis with selenium supplementation in China. Biol Trace Element Res 1989;20:15–20.

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