Study confirms slight diabetes risk from selenium supplements

by Barbara Hewitt on February 4, 2013

Study confirms slight diabetes risk from selenium supplements

Selenium supplements, often taken in a belief that they can lower the risk of heart disease, could raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study has found. Selenium, a trace mineral found in foods grown in soil, is essential in small amounts, with low selenium levels associated with poor immune function and an increased risk of cardiomyopathy and death.

It is also believed to have properties that defend against several chronic diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, a study looking at the role of selenium in the prevention of CVD, has found that there is no evidence of any effect, either beneficial or harmful, but it did find a ‘small elevated risk’ of type 2 diabetes.

Dr Karen Rees and colleagues from the University of Warwick in the UK analysed 12 randomised controlled studies involving around 20,000 adults in the United States where selenium content in the soil is good and the population well nourished. ‘At this time, we cannot support using selenium supplements as a means of preventing CVD in healthy people,’ said Dr Saverio Stranges, clinical professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at the Warwick University Medical School and senior author of the study.

‘Taking selenium supplements is probably neither beneficial nor harmful, but given the lack of trials to date, we cannot rule out some low level of increased risk of type 2 diabetes, at least in individuals with high selenium status. ’, adding, ‘Although supplements were associated with a small increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes, this increase was not large enough to be statistically significant’.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “I’ve seen that a lot of people take supplements. I’ve seen Milk Thistle, Omega 3’s, R-ALA, coconut oil, and vinegar. What is the benefit of taking these and are there others that is suppose to help?”

The doctor said that more research needs to be carried out on the effect of selenium supplements in less well nourished populations where dietary intake of the element is lower. ‘However, the indiscriminate and widespread use of selenium supplements in individuals and populations with adequate or high selenium status is not justified and should not be encouraged based on the available evidence,’ he explained.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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