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PLoS One. 2014 Jan 20;9(1):e84972. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0084972. eCollection 2014.

Plasma selenium biomarkers in low income black and white americans from the southeastern United States.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
  • 2Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
  • 3Department of Public Health, Health Administration and Health Sciences, Tennessee State University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
  • 4Department of Population Health, Metro Public Health Department, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
  • 5Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
  • 6Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.


Biomarkers of selenium are necessary for assessing selenium status in humans, since soil variation hinders estimation of selenium intake from foods. In this study, we measured the concentration of plasma selenium, selenoprotein P (SEPP1), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX3) activity and their interindividual differences in 383 low-income blacks and whites selected from a stratified random sample of adults aged 40-79 years, who were participating in a long-term cohort study in the southeastern United States (US). We assessed the utility of these biomarkers to determine differences in selenium status and their association with demographic, socio-economic, dietary, and other indicators. Dietary selenium intake was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire designed for the cohort, matched with region-specific food selenium content, and compared with the US Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) set at 55 µg/day. We found that SEPP1, a sensitive biomarker of selenium nutritional status, was significantly lower among blacks than whites (mean 4.4 ± 1.1 vs. 4.7 ± 1.0 mg/L, p = 0.006), with blacks less than half as likely to have highest vs. lowest quartile SEPP1 concentration (Odds Ratio (OR) 0.4, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 0.2-0.8). The trend in a similar direction was observed for plasma selenium among blacks and whites, (mean 115 ± 15.1 vs. 118 ± 17.7 µg/L, p = 0.08), while GPX3 activity did not differ between blacks and whites (136 ± 33.3 vs. 132 ± 33.5 U/L, p = 0.320). Levels of the three biomarkers were not correlated with estimated dietary selenium intake, except for SEPP1 among 10% of participants with the lowest selenium intake (≤ 57 µg/day). The findings suggest that SEPP1 may be an effective biomarker of selenium status and disease risk in adults and that low selenium status may disproportionately affect black and white cohort participants.

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