Effects of chemical form of selenium on plasma biomarkers in a high-dose human supplementation trial

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Apr;15(4):804-10. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-05-0950.


Intervention trials with different forms of selenium are under way to assess the effects of selenium supplements on the incidence of cancer and other diseases. Plasma selenium biomarkers respond to selenium administration and might be useful for assessing compliance and safety in these trials. The present study characterized the effects of selenium supplementation on plasma selenium biomarkers and urinary selenium excretion in selenium-replete subjects. Moderate (approximately 200 microg/d) to large (approximately 600 microg/d) selenium supplements in the forms sodium selenite, high-selenium yeast (yeast), and l-selenomethionine (selenomethionine) were administered. Subjects were randomized into 10 groups (placebo and three dose levels of each form of selenium). Plasma biomarkers (selenium concentration, selenoprotein P concentration, and glutathione peroxidase activity) were determined before supplementation and every 4 weeks for 16 weeks. Urinary selenium excretion was determined at 16 weeks. Supplementation with selenomethionine and yeast raised the plasma selenium concentration in a dose-dependent manner. Selenite did not. The increased selenium concentration correlated with the amount of selenomethionine administered. Neither glutathione peroxidase activity nor selenoprotein P concentration responded to selenium supplementation. Urinary selenium excretion was greater after selenomethionine than after selenite, with excretion after yeast being intermediate and not significantly different from either of the other two. We conclude that plasma selenium concentration is useful in monitoring compliance and safety of selenium supplementation as selenomethionine but not as selenite. Plasma selenium seems to reflect the selenomethionine content of yeast but not the other yeast selenium forms. As judged by urinary selenium excretion, selenium in the form of selenomethionine is better absorbed than selenite.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers*
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Selenomethionine / blood
  • Selenomethionine / therapeutic use*
  • Selenomethionine / urine


  • Biomarkers
  • Selenomethionine