The importance of selenium to human health

Lancet. 2000 Jul 15;356(9225):233-41. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(00)02490-9.


The essential trace mineral, selenium, is of fundamental importance to human health. As a constituent of selenoproteins, selenium has structural and enzymic roles, in the latter context being best-known as an antioxidant and catalyst for the production of active thyroid hormone. Selenium is needed for the proper functioning of the immune system, and appears to be a key nutrient in counteracting the development of virulence and inhibiting HIV progression to AIDS. It is required for sperm motility and may reduce the risk of miscarriage. Deficiency has been linked to adverse mood states. Findings have been equivocal in linking selenium to cardiovascular disease risk although other conditions involving oxidative stress and inflammation have shown benefits of a higher selenium status. An elevated selenium intake may be associated with reduced cancer risk. Large clinical trials are now planned to confirm or refute this hypothesis. In the context of these health effects, low or diminishing selenium status in some parts of the world, notably in some European countries, is giving cause for concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Catalysis
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / etiology
  • Muscle Proteins / physiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Selenium / deficiency
  • Selenium / immunology
  • Selenium / physiology*
  • Selenoproteins
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thyroid Hormones / biosynthesis
  • Trace Elements / physiology


  • Antioxidants
  • Muscle Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Selenoproteins
  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Trace Elements
  • Selenium