Selenium Supplements May Pose Heart Risk

Increased cholesterol levels worry researchers

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TUESDAY, Nov. 17, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Taking selenium supplements could boost your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease, English researchers suggest.

Selenium -- a trace essential mineral with antioxidant properties -- is found in foods such as meat, vegetables and seafood. Some people also take selenium supplements because they believe the mineral will reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases.

University of Warwick researchers examined the link between levels of selenium in the blood and fats in the blood in 1,042 people, ages 19 to 64. The study found that participants with blood levels of selenium higher than 1.20 umol/L (micromoles per liter) had an average total cholesterol level increase of 8 percent, and a 10 percent increase in non-HDL cholesterol levels.

Of the participants with the highest selenium levels, 48.2 percent said they took dietary supplements.

The study was published in the Nov. 11 online issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

Although high selenium levels were not exclusively caused by taking dietary supplements, the findings are cause for concern because the use of selenium dietary supplements is increasing, said study leader Dr. Saverio Stranges.

"This use has spread despite the lack of definitive evidence on selenium supplements efficacy for cancer and other chronic disease prevention. The cholesterol increases we identified may have important implications for public health. In fact, such a difference could translate into a large number of premature deaths from coronary heart disease," Stranges said in a news release.

"We believe that the widespread use of selenium supplements, or of any other strategy that artificially increases selenium status above the level required, is unwarranted at the present time. Further research is needed to examine the full range of health effects of increased selenium, whether beneficial or detrimental."

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements has more about selenium.

SOURCE: University of Warwick, news release, Nov. 12, 2009


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