Selenium and Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A Review

Herewith the conclusions from a review of the available research literature about selenium and inflammatory bowel disease [Ala & Kheyri 2021].

  • Selenium deficiency is a common finding in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients, and there is a correlation between increasing selenium deficiency and disease severity.
  • Selenium contributes to effective function of antioxidant systems
    and alleviates colitis.

    Diagram of gastrointestinal tract
    Inflammatory Bowel Disease comprises two sub-types: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. IBD is a very complex disease that is difficult to manage. One estimate is that 1 million citizens in the US and 2.5 million residents in Europe suffer from IBD. These patients must contend with the high price of medication, social stigma, and diminished quality of life. IBD patients suffer from malabsorption and commonly have a deficiency of selenium and other micronutrients.Selenium deficiency is a common finding in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) patients, and there is a correlation between increasing selenium deficiency and disease severity.Selenium supplementation alleviates colitis (inflammation of the large intestine, the colon).
  • Selenium aids healing of the intestinal mucosa through modification of immune response.
  • Selenium may improve the activity of gut protective microbiota, which are decreased in IBD.
  • Selenium may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by modulating several signaling pathways.  

How does Adequate Selenium Status Help Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients?

Adequate intakes of selenium are needed for the biosynthesis of selenoproteins, which contribute to antioxidative protection of cells and to the effective functioning of the immune system.

  • Selenium through the action of selenoproteins is known to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Adequate selenium status supports protective gut microbiota, which indirectly improves the management of IBD.
  • Selenium may block some of the tumorigenesis pathways under investigation in colitis-associated colorectal cancer.
Intake of Selenium Varies from Region to Region

The dietary intake and individuals’ serum level of selenium varies from region to region. For example, the US population has higher serum level of selenium (ca. 124 – 193 mcg/L) compared to most of the European and Middle Eastern populations (ca. 50-120 mcg/L) simply because the soil in many regions of North America is rich in selenium. read more

Sex Differences in Selenium Metabolism and Selenoproteins

Couple on the beach
Males and females are different in ways that go beyond the morphology of their sex organs. This sexual dimorphism affects critical aspects of the selenium metabolism in animals and humans. Here Seale et al. review the available information on the influence of biological sex parameters on selenium metabolism and the effect of selenium and selenoproteins on sex hormones.

One thing that the Covid-19 infections have taught us is that biological sex differences affect the way we respond to the virus. The Johns Hopkins University biologist Dr. Sabra Klein says that men are more likely to die from Covid-19 and more likely to be hospitalized with severe cases of the disease.

This seems to hold true even though women are just as likely to be infected and even when researchers control for the effect of factors such as age and region.

Women seem to have a stronger immune response to pathogens – bacteria, viruses, parasites – and to have a higher antibody production after vaccination. On the other hand, women are at greater risk for the development of auto-immune diseases. read more

Selenium Deficiency A Big Risk Factor for Heart Disease

Ash tray with cigarette butts
In the Italian study (Giacconi et al. 2021), only smoking ranked above selenium deficiency as a risk factor for heart disease. Age, BMI, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and gender all ranked lower than selenium deficiency as risk factors for heart disease.

Results from an Italian study have added to the evidence that adequate selenium status is necessary to prevent heart disease, especially in elderly individuals.

The Italian study data showed that study participants with plasma selenium concentrations below 60 micrograms per liter were 1.9 times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease compared to study participants with higher selenium status [Giacconi 2021].

Reduced plasma selenium status was associated with elevated levels of biomarkers of inflammation, increased expression of cytokines, and down-regulation of sirtuins in peripheral blood mononuclear cells [Giacconi 2021].

Selenium Status and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

The KiSel-10 Study Results

In a clinical trial with combined selenium and Coenzyme Q supplementation of elderly citizens, average age: 78 years, with low selenium status (mean: 67.1 micrograms per liter), for 48 months, researchers found reduced cardiovascular mortality after 10 and 12 years of follow-up [Alehagen 2018, 2015). read more