Dietary selenium and major depression: a nested case-control study

Complement Ther Med. 2012 Jun;20(3):119-23. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2011.12.008. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


Objectives and methods: Alterations in redox biology are established in depression; however, there are no prospective epidemiological data on redox-active selenium in depression. We aimed to determine if low levels of dietary selenium are associated with an increased risk for de novo major depressive disorder (MDD). In this nested case-control study, women aged 20 years or more were identified from a randomly selected cohort being followed prospectively for the Geelong Osteoporosis Study. Cases were individuals with incident MDD, identified using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR (SCID-I/NP); controls had no such history. Dietary selenium intake was measured using a food frequency questionnaire at baseline, together with anthropometric and lifestyle measures.

Results: Eighteen women who developed de novo MDD were classified as cases; there were 298 controls. Low dietary selenium intakes increased the likelihood of developing MDD; OR 2.74 (95%CI 0.95-7.89). After adjusting for age and SES, compared with a high selenium intake, a low intake (<8.9 μg/MJ/day) was associated with an approximate trebling of the likelihood for developing de novo MDD; OR 2.95 (95%CI 1.00-8.72). Smoking, alcohol consumption and physical activity did not confound the association.

Conclusion: These data suggest that lower dietary selenium intakes are associated with an increased risk of subsequent de novo MDD. We propose that selenium's function as an antioxidant, and as a constituent of selenoproteins that are important in redox homeostasis, warrants further investigation as a risk factor for depression, and suggest a potentially novel modifiable factor in the primary prevention and management of depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / etiology*
  • Depressive Disorder / prevention & control
  • Diet Surveys
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Risk Factors
  • Selenium / deficiency*
  • Selenium / therapeutic use
  • Selenoproteins / chemistry
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trace Elements / deficiency*
  • Trace Elements / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Selenoproteins
  • Trace Elements
  • Selenium