Optimal serum selenium concentrations are associated with lower depressive symptoms and negative mood among young adults

J Nutr. 2015 Jan;145(1):59-65. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.198010. Epub 2014 Nov 5.


Background: There is evidence that low, and possibly high, selenium status is associated with depressed mood. More evidence is needed to determine whether this pattern occurs in young adults with a wide range of serum concentrations of selenium.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine if serum selenium concentration is associated with depressive symptoms and daily mood states in young adults.

Methods: A total of 978 young adults (aged 17-25 y) completed the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale and reported their negative and positive mood daily for 13 d using an Internet diary. Serum selenium concentration was determined by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. ANCOVA and regression models tested the linear and curvilinear associations between decile of serum selenium concentration and mood outcomes, controlling for age, gender, ethnicity, BMI, and weekly alcohol intake. Smoking and childhood socioeconomic status were further controlled in a subset of participants.

Results: The mean ± SD serum selenium concentration was 82 ± 18 μg/L and ranged from 49 to 450 μg/L. Participants with the lowest serum selenium concentration (62 ± 4 μg/L; decile 1) and, to a lesser extent, those with the highest serum selenium concentration (110 ± 38 μg/L; decile 10) had significantly greater adjusted depressive symptoms than did participants with midrange serum selenium concentrations (82 ± 1 to 85 ± 1 μg/L; deciles 6 and 7). Depressive symptomatology was lowest at a selenium concentration of ∼85 μg/L. Patterns for negative mood were similar but more U-shaped. Positive mood showed an inverse U-shaped association with selenium, but this pattern was less consistent than depressive symptoms or negative mood.

Conclusions: In young adults, an optimal range of serum selenium between ∼82 and 85 μg/L was associated with reduced risk of depressive symptomatology. This range approximates the values at which glutathione peroxidase is maximal, suggesting that future research should investigate antioxidant pathways linking selenium to mood. This trial was registered with the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry as ACTRN12613000773730.

Keywords: daily diary method; depression; micronutrients; mood; selenium; young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology*
  • Age Factors
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Antioxidants
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / blood*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Glutathione Peroxidase / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Reference Values
  • Selenium / blood*
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Antioxidants
  • Glutathione Peroxidase
  • Selenium

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12613000773730