Selenium supplements do not prevent cardiovascular disease, they could raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new UK study.
Selenium, a trace mineral found in ‘soil’ foods, is essential in small amounts, with low selenium levels associated with poor immune function and an increased risk of cardiomyopathy and death. It is also believed to have properties that defend against several chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
To examine the role of selenium in the primary prevention of CVD, Dr Karen Rees and colleagues from the University of Warwick analysed 12 randomised controlled involving around 20,000 adults in the US, where selenium content in the soil is good and the population well-nourished.
They found no evidence of any effect, either beneficial or harmful, of selenium supplementation on cardiovascular outcomes, and also noted a small elevated risk of type 2 diabetes.
Dr Saverio Stranges, clinical professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at the Warwick University Medical School and senior author of the study, said: “At this time, we cannot support using selenium supplements as a means of preventing CVD in healthy people.
“At the same time, we cannot be confident that there isn’t a small increased risk of type 2 diabetes [associated with selenium supplements] in individuals with high selenium status.”
He added: “We need to know what effect selenium supplements have in less well-nourished populations where dietary intake of the element is lower.
“However, the indiscriminate and widespread use of selenium supplements in individuals and populations with adequate or high selenium status is not justified and should not be encouraged based on the available evidence.”

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