Selenium Status of the Australian Population: Effect of Age, Gender and Cardiovascular Disease

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Selenium (Se) is an essential trace element and the clinical consequences of Se deficiency have been well-documented. Se is primarily obtained through the diet and recent studies have suggested that the level of Se in Australian foods is declining. Currently there is limited data on the Se status of the Australian population so the aim of this study was to determine the plasma concentration of Se and glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), a well-established biomarker of Se status. Furthermore, the effect of gender, age and presence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) was also examined. Blood plasma samples from healthy subjects (140 samples, mean age = 54 years; range, 20–86 years) and CVD patients (112 samples, mean age = 67 years; range, 40–87 years) were analysed for Se concentration and GSH-Px activity. The results revealed that the healthy Australian cohort had a mean plasma Se level of 100.2 ± 1.3 μg Se/L and a mean GSH-Px activity of 108.8 ± 1.7 U/L. Although the mean value for plasma Se reached the level required for optimal GSH-Px activity (i.e. 100 μg Se/L), 47% of the healthy individuals tested fell below this level. Further evaluation revealed that certain age groups were more at risk of a lowered Se status, in particular, the oldest age group of over 81 years (females = 97.6 ± 6.1 μg Se/L; males = 89.4 ± 3.8 μg Se/L). The difference in Se status between males and females was not found to be significant. The presence of CVD did not appear to influence Se status, with the exception of the over 81 age group, which showed a trend for a further decline in Se status with disease (plasma Se, 93.5 ± 3.6 μg Se/L for healthy versus 88.2 ± 5.3 μg Se/L for CVD; plasma GSH-Px, 98.3 ± 3.9 U/L for healthy versus 87.0 ± 6.5 U/L for CVD). These findings emphasise the importance of an adequate dietary intake of Se for the maintenance of a healthy ageing population, especially in terms of cardiovascular health.

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