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Higher Selenium Status Linked with Lower Mortality Risk During 17.3-Year Follow-Up


A study found a lower risk of all-cause mortality during 17.3 years of follow-up among men and women with high blood serum levels of selenoprotein P, which is one of the main proteins responsible for transporting selenium throughout the body.1 The findings were reported in the February 2024 issue of the European Journal of Epidemiology.

“Our study is the second largest population-based cohort study on the association of selenium status and mortality worldwide after the US-American National Health and Examination Survey and thus the largest study from Europe so far, where selenium supply is insufficient,” authors Ben Schöttker and colleagues wrote. “The associations of the selenoprotein P concentration with multiple major mortality outcomes might be explained by its essential role in selenium transport and hence its indirect anti-oxidative effects.”

The investigation included 7,186 male and female participants in the ongoing ESTHER study; they were aged 50 to 75 years at recruitment during 2000-2002. There were 2,126 deaths during a 17.3 follow-up period. Participants at the start of the study who were in the lowest one-third of selenoprotein P levels had a 35% greater adjusted risk of all-cause mortality compared with participants whose were among the top third.

Additionally, compared to those with the best selenium status, participants with the lowest levels of selenoprotein P:

  • Had a 24% higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease
  • Faced a 31% greater risk of cancer mortality
  • Were more than twice the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal disease mortality
  • Were more likely to be male than female

What do we do with these findings? According to the study’s authors, the next step is clinical trials to evaluate the effects of selenium among people with low levels of selenoprotein P.


Apply What You’ve Learned: Selenium

  • Selenium is an essential trace element. Among other functions, it is needed for the formation of glutathione peroxidase, an important antioxidant enzyme.
  • Up to one billion people worldwide are estimated to be selenium deficient.2 Low soil selenium concentrations and availability in some areas of the world result in food that fails to provide adequate amounts of this important mineral.3 Similarly, selenium uptake and accumulation are influenced by crop type. Many people’s vitamin and mineral regimens do not include selenium.1
  • Blood testing for plasma or serum selenium can help determine whether selenium levels are sufficient.
  • Other than obtaining selenium from food, selenium is available in such forms as Se-methyl L-selenocysteine, L-selenomethionine and sodium selenite.


  1. Schöttker B et al. Eur J Epidemiol. 2024 Feb;39(2):121-136.
  2. Kirichuk AA et al. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2024 Mar 20:84:127439.
  3. Navarro-Alarcon M et al. Sci Total Environ. 2008 Aug 1;400(1-3):115-41.

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