Selenium and Autoimmune Diseases

Autoimmune diseases are conditions in which the person’s immune system mistakenly attacks parts of the person’s own body such as his or her joints or skin. There are as many as 14 common autoimmune diseases. Some attack only one organ; others attack the entire body. Through its role in the maintenance of thyroid function and its role in the antioxidant defense of cells and DNA, selenium may have a critical protective effect in the management of autoimmune diseases. More clinical research is needed.

Selenium is a micronutrient that plays an important role in the oxidative defense of cells and DNA against damage by harmful free radicals.  Selenium is the main component of the selenoproteins that play important roles in reproductive function, immune system modulation, and thyroid hormone synthesis [Sahebari].

Low Serum Selenium Levels and Autoimmune Diseases

Decreased serum selenium levels have been associated with increased incidence of some autoimmune diseases.  Furthermore, low levels of selenium may be a risk factor for systemic inflammation and for the initiation of some autoimmune diseases [Sahebari]:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sjögren syndrome
  • Behcet’s diseases
  • Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis)

Selenium Supplementation and Autoimmune Diseases

Selenium supplementation has been shown to have beneficial effects in the management of rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma [Sahebari]. read more

Selenium Supplementation for Premature Neonates

Preterm neonates are babies born more than three weeks before the normal term, i.e. born before the 37th week of gestation. Sepsis – the condition caused by harmful bacteria entering the blood circulation – is one of the complications associated with premature birth. Selenium supplementation can reduce the risk of late-onset sepsis in preterm neonates.

Selenium supplementation reduces the risk of sepsis in premature babies.

Three studies carried out in low-selenium countries – Australia, New Zealand, and India – have shown a positive effect of selenium supplementation in reducing the incidence of sepsis in premature babies [Daniels; Darlow; Aggarwal].

Selenium supplementation – both selenium fed orally and selenium fed parenterally – significantly improved the selenium status of premature babies and reduced the incidence of “late onset” sepsis [Darlow].

In none of the three clinical studies were there any adverse reactions to the selenium supplementation [Daniels; Darlow; Aggarwal].

Increased Risk of Sepsis in Premature Babies Without Selenium Supplementation

“Late onset” sepsis presents, typically, one week or more following birth and is caused by exposure to infection in the hospital.  A “late onset” sepsis occurs in about one out of five premature babies with a birth weight below 1500 grams (about 3 pounds and five ounces). read more