Selenium supplements may offer migraine support: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© South_agency / Getty Images
© South_agency / Getty Images

Related tags Selenium migraine

Daily supplementation with selenium may reduce the frequency and severity of headaches in people suffering from migraines, says a new study from Iran.

Data published in Frontiers in Nutrition​ indicated that 12 weeks of supplementation with 200 micrograms per day of selenium also increased total antioxidant capacity and reduced levels of MDA (malondialdehyde), a marker of oxidative stress.

“To the best of our knowledge, this was the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine the effect of selenium supplementation on clinical and physiological outcomes of patients with migraine,” the researchers wrote.


Selenium is an essential micronutrient and is considered to be an antioxidant. The mineral is included in 25 selenoproteins in the body, with diverse roles including immune support, thyroid function and healthy sperm. The issue for selenium, as for other nutrients, is that you can get too much of a good thing.

Data from prospective studies have reported potential risk reductions for a number of cancers for 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.

A 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).

The new study by scientists from Isfahan University of Medical Sciences suggests that selenium may also have a role to play in migraines, linked to its antioxidative effects.

Study details

The Iranian researchers recruited 72 people who suffer from migraines and randomly assigned them to receive either selenium supplements (200 micrograms per day in the form of selenomethionine) or placebo for 12 weeks.

Results showed that not only did total antioxidant capacity increase and MDA levels decrease, compared to placebo, but there was also a significant reduction in levels of nitric oxide (NO).

“NO, an oxidant vasodilator, is increased in the platelets, urine and plasma of patients with migraine, which participates in trigeminovascular inflammation and also accelerates pain in the central nervous system,”  the researchers explained.

“Moreover, elevated levels of lipid peroxidation metabolites such as MDA have been observed in migraineurs during headache attacks. For this reason, improvements observed regarding the frequency and severity of headaches can be explained by alleviating neurogenic inflammation and oxidative stress.”

The data also revealed that the frequency and severity of headaches decreased in the selenium group, but no improvements were reported for the duration of headaches.

Additionally, no differences between the groups were observed for mental health measures, such as depression, anxiety and distress.

The researchers called for future clinical trials to replicate these results and also to elucidate the optimal dosage for selenium supplementation.

Source: Frontiers in Nutrition
2024, Volume 11, doi: 10.3389/fnut.2024.1369373
“The effect of selenium supplementation on oxidative stress, clinical and physiological symptoms in patients with migraine: a double-blinded randomized clinical trial”
Authors: A. Balali et al.

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