Selenium may ease onset of metabolic syndrome: Study

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Metabolic syndrome Selenium Nutrition Blood sugar Dietary reference intake

An increased intake of selenium may decrease risk factors for metabolic syndrome and inflammation, suggests a new study from Spain.

Researchers from the University of Navarra in Pamplona report that selenium status appears to be linked with serum complement factor 3 (C3), which has been reported to be a marker for increased risk of the metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is a condition characterised by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism. The syndrome has been linked to increased risks of both type 2 diabetes and CVD.

Writing in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​, the researchers state: “We report here for the first time an association between circulating C3 and nail selenium concentrations.”

Selenium levels have been falling in 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

One hundred healthy young adults with an average age of 20.7 and an average BMI of 21.6 kg per m2 were recruited. Lifestyle features were analysed and blood pressure measurements taken, while finger nail samples were taken to measure selenium concentrations.

Using data from fasting blood samples, the researchers found that higher C3 levels had a positive association with several measures, including BMI, waist circumference, blood glucose levels, and triacylglycerol levels. On the other hand, selenium levels measured from the finger nails were negatively associated with C3 concentrations, they said.

“C3 seems to be related with selenium status and several anthropometrical and biochemical measurements linked to metabolic syndrome in apparently healthy young adults,” ​wrote the authors.

“These findings suggest a possible role for selenium intake in the modulation of C3, whose assessment may be an early marker of metabolic syndrome manifestations.”

Note of caution

The Pamplona-based scientists added that the results should be interpreted with caution since there is a lack of adequate food content tables for selenium, and these are necessary to confirm that selenium concentrations in nails are reliable markers of selenium intake.

“Moreover, further studies are needed with larger samples to confirm these translational data,”​ they concluded.

Source: European Journal of Clinical Nutrition​Published online ahead of print, 5 November 2008, doi:10.1038/ejcn.2008.48“Selenium intake reduces serum C3, an early marker of metabolic syndrome manifestations, in healthy young adults”​Authors: B. Puchau, M.A. Zulet, A. Gonzalez de Echavarri, I. Navarro-Blasco and J.A. Martinez

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