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Selenium and nutrition: The accuracy and variability of the selenium content in commercial supplements


Selenium is a required trace-element that has been found to be protective against serious chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease in some, but not all, epidemiological studies using both case-control and intervention designs. As a result, the fraction of the adult U.S. population now taking a daily selenium supplement is steadily increasing. In this study, we analyzed 10 or more replicate Se supplement tablets, from each of 15 different products representing 12 different brand names with most being sampled at two different times separated by approximately 30 months. Two chemical forms, seleno-yeast and selenate were tested in 50, 100 and 200 µg/tablet dosages (seleno-yeast) and 25 and 200 µg/tablet dosages (selenate). Variations in contemporary lots were evaluated at both sampling periods. The Se content provided on the product label is generally understated. One tablet contained 2.5 times more selenium than the stated dose. Selenate supplements are less accurately labeled and more highly variable compared to yeast supplements. One popular multivitamin, labeled at 200 µg/tablet, contained tablets in excess of 300 µg. Many subjects using this supplement will exceed the 400 µg/day tolerable upper limit of intake, recently established, for Se by the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board.

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Veatch, A., Brockman, J., Spate, V. et al. Selenium and nutrition: The accuracy and variability of the selenium content in commercial supplements. J Radioanal Nucl Chem 264, 33–38 (2005).

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  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Selenium
  • Selenate
  • Chronic Disease
  • Epidemiological Study