November 24, 2005
For the first time ever, researchers have studied the correlation between selenium deficiency and osteoarthritis, which correlation is surprisingly strong and indicates that selenium supplementation may prevent the Western World’s most common cause of mobility-impairment.
There is a general agreement that selenium is a mineral which western Europeans get less and less of through their diets. Modern agricultural methods and the acidification of the soil has have caused a lowered amount of this vital antioxidant I crops, and thereby a lowered amount of selenium in our bodies. The deficiency is severe enough that, as early as the 1980’s, it widespread problems in Danish pigs so severe that, after some political tug-of-war, supplements were added to their feed. But does this deficiency mean anything for people?
So far the only answer is “probably.” Large population studies in Finland etc. have shown that members of the group which gets the least selenium via diet have the greatest risk of getting cancer.
Just as importantly, in an American randomised study with 1,300 participants undertake nine years ago, it was found that supplements of selenium halved the frequency of new cancer cases. The less selenium presents in the blood beforehand, the greater the positive effect with the supplement. The result was so certain that the study was stopped early for ethical reasons and is being repeated on a larger scale. If selenium prevents cancer so effectively, we should be absolutely certain of its effects.
Meanwhile, researchers from North Carolina’s university in cooperation with the American Center for Disease Control (CDC) discovered another relationship: Selenium deficiency causes an increased risk of arthritis of the knees. The risk of arthritis of the knees increases by 15-20% every time that the body’s selenium content is reduced by 10 micrograms (per kilo body weight). For comparison, the blood of the average Dane contains about 80 microgram/litre while the blood of the average American contains 110.
Among the nearly 900 people who were followed for 15 years, the risk was 40% lower in the third who received the most selenium. If they developed arthritis anyway, there was a tendency that it was to a lesser degree.
This is just a statistical relationship. It has not yet been published in the press, but has been presented in a congress (15.11.05) in San Diego for American arthritis doctors and can be read in an official press release from North Carolina’s university.
Nevertheless, the study’s leader, professor Joanne Jordan, has declared that the group is very excited about their findings. It could indicate that there is a possibility of preventing arthritis in the knee and possibly in other joints. In other words, it might be possible to prevent the most common reason for activity reduction in the western world. In China it is known that extreme selenium deficiency can cause severe cartilage injury in joints as early as during childhood. Does this point in the same direction?
Maybe, but it is not known for certain. According to Joanne Jordan, the next step in to study selenium’s effect on cartilage in the laboratory. The obvious hypothesis is that this effect is due to selenium’s function as an antioxidant. Clinical studies, in other words randomised studies, should be undertaken to find out whether selenium supplements effect pain and the level of function in people with arthritis.
The new finds are not final, but it is the first time that anyone has studied the correlation between arthritis and selenium. It is very surprising that the relationship is so apparent.
By: Vitality Council
1. Rayman M. The importance of selenium to human health. The Lancet 2000:;356:233-41.
2. News Release. Study links low selenium levels with higher risk of osteoarthritis. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/nov05/jordan111005.htm
3. Clark LC. et al. Effect of selenium supplementation for cancer prevention in patients with carcinoma of the skin. A randomized controlled trial. JAMA 1996;276:1957-63.