Se is a potent nutritional antioxidant important for various aspects of human health. Because asthma has been demonstrated to involve increased oxidative stress, levels of Se intake have been hypothesized to play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. However, significant associations between Se status and prevalence or severity of asthma have not been consistently demonstrated in human studies. This highlights both the complex etiology of human asthma and the inherent problems with correlative nutritional studies. In this review, the different findings in human studies are discussed along with results from limited intervention studies. Mouse models of asthma have provided more definitive results suggesting that the benefits of Se supplementation may depend on an individual's initial Se status. This likely involves T helper cell differentiation and the mechanistic studies that have provided important insight into the effects of Se levels on immune cell function are summarized. Importantly, the benefits and adverse effects of Se supplementation must both be considered in using this nutritional supplement for treating asthma. With this in mind new approaches are discussed that may provide more safe and effective means for using Se supplementation for asthma or other disorders involving inflammation or immunity.
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