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Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 May;62(2):393-7.

Selenium supplementation: does soil supplementation help and why?

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Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB21 9SB, Scotland, UK.


There are now concerns that dietary Se intake is inadequate for the population in the UK and parts of Europe. Many different methods can be proposed to deal with this problem. Experience from Finland suggests that the addition of Se to fertiliser is a safe and effective means of increasing the intake of the micronutrient in the human population. However, careful consideration needs to be given to the potential consequences of increasing Se intake. It is important to understand the biochemical and physiological changes that may occur with any increase in Se intake within the UK population. Se is an essential component of at least twenty functional proteins within mammals. These proteins are essential for a range of metabolic functions, including antioxidant activity, thyroid hormone synthesis and immune function. Thus, any increase in Se intake has the potential to influence in a wide range of factors that may impinge on the incidence of chronic disease. Treatment of soil with Se-supplemented fertiliser will certainly increase total Se in food products derived from areas where this treatment is in place. Consumption of such foods will increase Se status in many populations where the existing intake does not meet requirements. If the increases in Se intake are not toxic the overall consequences have the potential to be beneficial.

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