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Sci Total Environ. 2010 Sep 1;408(19):4076-84. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.05.022.

Elevated levels of selenium in the typical diet of Amazonian riverside populations.

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  • 1Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur la biologie, la santé, la société et l'environnement (CINBIOSE), Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, Canada.


Selenium (Se) intake is generally from food, whose Se content depends on soil Se and plant accumulation. For humans, adequate Se intake is essential for several selenoenzymes. In the Lower Tapajós region of the Brazilian Amazon, Se status is elevated with large inter-community variability. Se intake in this region, where Hg exposure is among the highest in the world, may be important to counteract mercury (Hg) toxicity. The present study was conducted in 2006 with 155 persons from four communities of the Lower Tapajós. The objectives were: i) to evaluate Se content in their typical diet and drinking water; ii) to compare food Se concentrations with respect to geographic location; and iii) to examine the contribution of consumption of different food items to blood Se. More than 400 local foods and 40 drinking water samples were collected. Participants responded to an interview-administered food frequency questionnaire and provided blood samples. Food, water and blood Se levels were assessed by ICP-MS. Since Brazil nuts may also contain significant levels of barium (Ba) and strontium (Sr), these elements were likewise analyzed in nuts. The highest Se concentrations were found in Brazil nuts, but concentrations were highly variable (median: 13.9 microg/g; range: 0.4-158.4 microg/g). Chicken, game meat, eggs and beef also contained considerable levels of Se, with median concentrations from 0.3 to 1.4 microg/g. There was no particular geographic distribution of food Se. Se concentration in drinking water was very low (< 1.4 microg/L). Blood Se covered a (103-1500 microg/L), and was positively related to regular consumption of Brazil nuts, domestic chicken and game meat. Brazil nuts were found to contain highly variable and often very high concentrations of Ba (88.0 microg/g, 1.9-1437 microg/g) and Sr (38.7 microg/g, 3.3-173 microg/g).

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