The essential role of selenium in human nutrition and its discrete biochemical functions are rapidly being characterized. Severe deficiency and selenosis (toxi-city) occur in different regions and are manifested by characteristic and life-threatening human diseases. The selenoproteins have a wide variety of roles, both catalytic and noncatalytic. Interactions with redox pathways appear to be common. Selenoprotein P, in particular, appears to play an important detoxification role. Selenium appears to play an important role in cell-mediated immunity. Selenium deficiency can cause viral mutation leading to increased virulence, and such mutation and its consequences appear permanent. Optimum human intakes of selenium are still a matter of debate because some studies have reported benefits (e.g., anticancer and immunological effects) when supplements are given, even to populations that appear to be generously supplied with the nutrient. The distinction between nutritional and pharmacological benefits is unclear, and further trials to determine risk-benefit balance at different intake levels are needed in a range of populations and age and gender groups.

See also: Antioxidants: Intervention Studies. Ascorbic Acid: Physiology, Dietary Sources and Requirements.

Cancer: Effects on Nutritional Status. Vitamin A: Biochemistry and Physiological Role. Vitamin E: Metabolism and Requirements.

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