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      Selenium in the Environment, Metabolism and Involvement in Body Functions


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          Selenium ( ) is a metalloid which is close to sulfur (S) in terms of properties. The Se concentration in soil varies with type, texture and organic matter content of the soil and with rainfall. Its assimilation by plants is influenced by the physico-chemical properties of the soil (redox status, pH and microbial activity). The presence of Se in the atmosphere is linked to natural and anthropogenic activities. Selenoproteins, in which selenium is present as selenocysteine, present an important role in many body functions, such as antioxidant defense and the formation of thyroid hormones. Some selenoprotein metabolites play a role in cancer prevention. In the immune system, selenium stimulates antibody formation and activity of helper T cells, cytotoxic T cells and Natural Killer (NK) cells. The mechanisms of intestinal absorption of selenium differ depending on the chemical form of the element. Selenium is mainly absorbed in the duodenum and caecum by active transport through a sodium pump. The recommended daily intake of selenium varies from 60 μg/day for women, to 70 μg/day for men. In growing ruminants the requirements are estimated at 100 μg/kg dry matter and 200 μg/Kg for pregnant or lactating females. A deficiency can cause reproductive disorders in humans and animals.

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          Selenium in food and the human body: a review.

          Selenium levels in soil generally reflect its presence in food and the Se levels in human populations. Se food content is influenced by geographical location, seasonal changes, protein content and food processing. Periodic monitoring of Se levels in soil and food is necessary. Diet is the major Se source and approximately 80% of dietary Se is absorbed depending on the type of food consumed. Se bioavailability varies according to the Se source and nutritional status of the subject, being significantly higher for organic forms of Se. Se supplements can be beneficial for subjects living in regions with very low environmental levels of Se. Several strategies have been followed: (1) employment of Se-enriched fertilizers; (2) supplementation of farm animals with Se; (3) consumption of multimicronutrient supplements with Se. Nevertheless, detailed investigations of possible interactions between Se supplements and other food components and their influence on Se bioavailability are needed. Suppliers also need to provide more information on the specific type of Se used in supplements. In addition, research is lacking on the mechanisms through which Se is involved in hepatocyte damage during hepatopathies. Although Se potential as an antioxidant for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is promising, additional long-term intervention trials are necessary. As a result, indiscriminate Se supplements cannot be reliably recommended for the prevention of CVD in human beings. Some interesting findings reported an association of Se intake with a reduced prevalence and risk for prostate and colon cancer. However, random trials for other cancer types are inconclusive. As a final conclusion, the general population should be warned against the employment of Se supplements for prevention of hepatopathies, cardiovascular or cancer diseases, because benefits of Se supplementation are still uncertain, and their indiscriminate use could generate an increased risk of Se toxicity.
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            Selenium bioavailability: current knowledge and future research requirements.

            Information on selenium bioavailability is required to derive dietary recommendations and to evaluate and improve the quality of food products. The need for robust data is particularly important in light of recent suggestions of potential health benefits associated with different intakes of selenium. The issue is not straightforward, however, because of large variations in the selenium content of foods (determined by a combination of geologic/environmental factors and selenium supplementation of fertilizers and animal feedstuffs) and the chemical forms of the element, which are absorbed and metabolized differently. Although most dietary selenium is absorbed efficiently, the retention of organic forms is higher than that of inorganic forms. There are also complications in the assessment and quantification of selenium species within foodstuffs. Often, extraction is only partial, and the process can alter the form or forms present in the food. Efforts to improve, standardize, and make more widely available techniques for species quantification are required. Similarly, reliable and sensitive functional biomarkers of selenium status are required, together with improvements in current biomarker methods. This requirement is particularly important for the assessment of bioavailability, because some functional biomarkers respond differently to the various selenium species. The effect of genotype adds a potential further dimension to the process of deriving bioavailability estimates and underlines the need for further research to facilitate the process of deriving dietary recommendations in the future.
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              Selenomethionine: a review of its nutritional significance, metabolism and toxicity.

              Although the need for selenium in human and animal nutrition is well recognized, the question concerning the proper form of selenium for supplemental use is still being debated. Ideally, selenium should be supplemented in the form in which it occurs naturally in foods. Because the L-isomer of selenomethionine (Se-met) is a major natural food-form of selenium, synthetic L-Se-met or enriched food sources thereof such as selenium yeast are appropriate supplemental forms of Se for humans; for animals, DL-Se-met is acceptable. Ingested Se-met is either metabolized directly to reactive forms of selenium or stored in place of methionine in body proteins. Se-met metabolism is closely linked to protein turnover. At constant intakes in the nutritional range, tissue Se levels increase until a steady state is established, preventing the build-up to toxic levels.

                Author and article information

                13 March 2013
                March 2013
                : 18
                : 3
                : 3292-3311
                [1 ]ULg-FMV, Nutrition Unit, Department of Animal Production, Boulevard de Colonster 20, Bât. B43 4000, Liège, Belgium; E-Mails: ymehdi@ 123456doct.ulg.ac.be (Y.M.); jlhornick@ 123456ulg.ac.be (J.-L.H.); listasse@ 123456ulg.ac.be (L.I.)
                [2 ]ULg-FMV, Station Expérimentale Chemin de la Ferme 6, Bât. B39 4000, Liège, Belgium
                Author notes
                [* ] Author to whom correspondence should be addressed; E-Mail: Isabelle.Dufrasne@ 123456ulg.ac.be ; Tel.: +32-4-366-2373; Fax: +32-4-366-4733.
                © 2013 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).

                : 03 December 2012
                : 05 March 2013
                : 07 March 2013



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