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Selenium and vitamin E supplementation should continue in the UK

Sensible vitamin E and selenium supplementation poses no risk to the British public.

A recent study has cast doubt on the usefulness and safety of vitamin E and selenium supplements. The conclusions of the study are the result of questionable statistical interpretation and British users of these dietary supplements should continue in confidence.

This new study is based on analysis of an earlier 2001 study by a group of researchers.  The SELECT study investigated vitamin E and selenium individually, and in combination, for anti-cancer effects. A preventative effect on cancer was not found in this study.  It was not until later that researchers understood why. This is because SELECT was performed on a group of Americans who already had a very high level of selenium in the blood, and with such high levels selenium supplementation does not provide extra benefit. However, there was still no significant increased risk of cancer found.

Unrealistic scenario

In the SELECT study, more than 35,000 people participated. This new study included only 1,739 subjects with prostate cancer and 3,117 subjects as the control group. The study shows no significant cancer risk for participants. Scientists only found problems in less than 100 out of the original 35,000 participants.  There was a significant increase in prostate cancer risk in those specific subjects who already had a very high baseline level of selenium and then proceeded to supplement it further with extra selenium.  It is worth noting that other lifestyle factors in this group, such as smoking, were not accounted for. These subjects with increased prostate cancer risk were recorded to have a daily intake of selenium 3.6 times higher than those Europeans who have the highest selenium in their diet.  It is equivalent to a daily dietary intake of 300 mcg selenium and then adding a supplement of 200 mcg of selenium and 400 International Units of vitamin E .  This would be considered excessive by anyone.  Although there is still no direct proof of cause and effect here.   Selenium toxicity is often only identified after prolonged intake of more than 800mcg.  A holistic view is required at all times.

Europe's Missing Mineral

Due to a switch in the type of flour used by bakers, the average daily intake of selenium for British people has dropped from a comparatively healthy 60mcg per day, to between 29-39 mcg, which is well below the long-established RDA.  A Finish study revealed that the risk of contracting cancer was 11 times greater for men with low blood levels of vitamin E and selenium.  The Chinese recommend a minimum daily intake of 100mcg of selenium and in Europe, the Finish adds selenium to fertiliser, while Norway has banned imports of wheat from low selenium countries. Beyond the cancer protective evidence for adequate selenium intake, there is also benefit for heart health, immune health, thyroid health and more.

Focus on the details

The researchers' data is taken after 10% of participants had stopped taking supplements. The selenium used in the study is selenomethionine has not shown convincing results against cancer. The vitamin E used is a synthetic form.  Neither of these forms matches the quality of the SelenoPrecise organic selenium yeast or natural vitamin E used by Pharma Nord. SelenoPrecise has been featured in over 50 clinical trials with exemplary safety data.  It is used therapeutically throughout the world by respected health professionals.


The number of studies showing a beneficial effect of selenium on cancer confirms that supplementation is exceptionally useful in Britain and throughout Europe. The US may be another matter. The fictitious scenario presented in the latest analysis of SELECT does not reflect the reality of selenium intake in Britain and people should not be discouraged from sensible supplementation.  

Ref.Kristal AR, et al.  Baseline Selenium Status and Effects of Selenium and Vitamin E Supplementation on Prostate Cancer Risk. JNCI 2014. E-pub. Ahead of print

Source: Pharma Nord – 24/02/2014

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