Selenium and iodine supplementation of rural Tibetan children affected by Kashin-Beck osteoarthropathy

Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul;78(1):137-44. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/78.1.137.


Background: Kashin-Beck disease is an osteoarthropathy endemic in selenium- and iodine-deficient areas around Lhasa, Tibet.

Objective: We assessed the efficacy of selenium supplementation on disease progression.

Design: A double-blind, randomized controlled trial of selenium supplementation was carried out in 324 children aged 5-15 y who had Kashin-Beck disease. Two hundred eighty children received iodized oil before being randomly assigned to receive selenium or placebo, and a control group of 44 subjects was not supplemented at all. Clinical and radiologic signs, selenium status, urinary iodine, and thyroid function were evaluated at baseline and at 12 mo.

Results: The frequencies of joint pain, decreased joint mobility, and radiologic abnormalities were not significantly different between the 3 groups at 12 mo. Height-for-age z scores increased significantly in the subjects who received placebo and iodine or selenium and iodine. In contrast, unsupplemented control subjects did not recover from growth retardation. Serum selenium concentrations at 12 mo were within the reference range and were significantly greater in the selenium-iodine group than in the placebo-iodine group. Serum thyroid hormone concentrations were within the reference ranges after the administration of iodine, and these values were not significantly affected by selenium supplementation.

Conclusions: The results of this study do not rule out the possibility that selenium may help to prevent the occurrence of Kashin-Beck disease. However, selenium supplementation had no effect on established Kashin-Beck disease, growth, or thyroid function once iodine deficiency was corrected. These results suggest that iodine, but not selenium, deficiency should be corrected in Tibetan children with Kashin-Beck disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Endemic Diseases
  • Female
  • Growth Disorders / complications
  • Humans
  • Iodine / administration & dosage*
  • Iodine / urine
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis / blood
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / drug therapy*
  • Osteoarthritis / epidemiology
  • Radiography
  • Rural Population*
  • Selenium / administration & dosage*
  • Selenium / urine
  • Thyroid Hormones / blood
  • Tibet / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Thyroid Hormones
  • Iodine
  • Selenium