Selenium for preventing cancer

A Cochrane review is a systematic review of research results in a field of human health care or health policy. The review’s authors summarize and analyze the evidence from observational studies and randomized controlled studies. Observational studies are studies in which the predictor variable (the study participants’ exposure to selenium) is not under the control of the researchers. In randomized controlled studies, the predictor variable (supplementation of some of the participants with selenium) is under the control of the researchers even though they are commonly blinded until the end of the study from knowing which study participants are receiving the active substance instead of the placebo substance.

Observational studies show predominantly and consistently an inverse association between selenium exposure and the risk of some cancer types [Vinceti 2018; Cai 2016].  The evidence from some 70 observational studies indicates that higher levels of exposure to selenium are associated with lower levels of cancer incidence and mortality [Vinceti 2018]. What the observational studies haven’t shown thus far is a systematic pattern suggesting specific dose-response relationships.   [Vinceti 2018].

The evidence from observational studies also indicates that there may be a U-shaped form to the relationship between selenium exposure and disease risk. For example, one study suggests that the best serum selenium range for protection against prostate cancer is between 119 and 137 micrograms per liter [Chiang 2010]. A second study shows that the risk of prostate cancer decreases gradually as the selenium concentrations increase in the range from 60 micrograms of selenium per liter of plasma up to 170 micrograms per liter.  Above 170 micrograms per liter, the protection ceases [Hurst 2012].

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Selenium and Coenzyme Q10 and heart protection

Healthy aging is the goal of us all. We want to remain physically active and mentally alert as long as we can. A study of the supplementation of elderly Swedish citizens has shown that daily supplementation with high-selenium yeast tablets and Coenzyme Q10 capsules significantly reduced the rate of death from heart disease. Depicted here: symptoms of heart attack.

Leading cardiologists in Sweden conducted a four-year study — the KiSel-10 study — of 443 of the elderly Swedish citizens and found that a prophylactic treatment with 200 micrograms of high-selenium yeast and 200 milligrams of Coenzyme Q10 daily reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by over 50 per cent.  This is an immensely interesting study result because heart disease is the number one killer in Western countries.

The KiSel-10 Study

The KiSel-10 clinical trial — a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study–  investigated the effect of a combination of high-selenium yeast tablets and Coenzyme Q10 capsules, as compared with matching placebo capsules and tablets, on the following outcomes:

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Selenium in combination with Coenzyme Q10

Selenocysteine, C3H7NO2Se, is known as the 21st amino acid. It contains selenium as a component. It is a constituent part of the 25 known selenoproteins and selenoenzymes found in the human body. The selenoproteins, in turn, play an important role in the body’s defense against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease.

Selenium is an essential micronutrient for us humans.  It is a component of the selenoproteins that we need for antioxidant protection and for good immune system function.  The selenoproteins glutathione peroxidase, thioredoxin reductase, and selenoprotein P are arguably the most important selenoproteins [Alehagen 2014].

Variability of selenium content and intakes

The soil content of selenium and, thus, the dietary intake of selenium varies considerably around the world.  Consequently, the need for selenium supplementation differs from region to region of the world.  Generally, selenium intakes are lower in Europe than in the United States; there is, however, also considerable variation within the United States.  The safest thing to do is to get a plasma or serum selenium concentration test done.

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