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Neurotoxicology. 2014 Mar;41:167-74. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2014.02.003. Epub 2014 Feb 20.

Selenium exposure and depressive symptoms: the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Trace Element Study.

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Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Indiana University at Bloomington, United States.
Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Departments of Medicine, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, United States.
University of Illinois at Chicago, United States.
University of Missouri Research Reactor Center and Harry S Truman Veterans Hospital, Columbia, MO 65211, United States.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, 680 North Lake Shore Drive, Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611, United States.


Selenium is an essential trace element important to neurotransmission, but toxic at high levels. Some studies suggest beneficial effects on mood. We assessed the association of selenium exposure with presence of depressive symptoms. Selenium exposure was measured in toenail samples collected in 1987 from 3735 US participants (age 20-32 years) and depressive symptoms assessed in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010 using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). Binary and polytomous logistic regression models were used to assess the relation of log2(selenium) and selenium quintiles with presence of depressive symptoms (CES-D scoreā‰„27 or on antidepressant medication). Relative to selenium quintile 1, the adjusted odds ratio (OR) for having depressive symptoms in 1990 for quintile 5 was 1.59 (95% CI: 1.01, 2.51) and a unit increase in log2(selenium), which represents a doubling of the selenium level, was associated with an OR=2.03 (95% CI: 1.12, 3.70). When examining 1, 2 or 3+ exams vs. no exams with symptoms, the OR for quintile 5 was 1.73 (1.04, 2.89) for 3+ exams and for one exam and two exams, there were no associations. In a generalized estimating equations longitudinal model, a doubling of the selenium level was associated with a 56% higher odds of having depressive symptoms at an exam. Contrary to previously reported findings related to mood, higher level of selenium exposure was associated with presence of elevated depressive symptoms. More research is needed to elucidate the role of selenium in depressive disorders.


Depression; Epidemiology; Selenium; Trace element

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