The rationale for selenium supplementation in inflammatory bowel disease: A mechanism-based point of view

Nutrition. 2021 May;85:111153. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2021.111153. Epub 2021 Jan 14.


Management of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has always been a challenge for physicians. Current treatment protocols may cause numerous adverse effects. Selenium is known for its putative antiinflammatory properties. Selenium is needed for the biosynthesis of enzymatically active selenoproteins, which contribute to antioxidative defense, and effective function of immune systems. Several studies have shown that patients with IBD have a lower selenium level compared to healthy subjects. Hence, experimental studies mimicking ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease investigated the effect of selenium supplementation on IBD. Previous studies indicated the following: 1) Selenoproteins can curb the inflammatory response and attenuate oxidative stress. This antiinflammatory property caused remission in animal models of colitis. 2) Selenium supports protective gut microbiota, which indirectly improves management of IBD. 3) Selenium may block some of the predominant tumorigenesis pathways proposed in colitis-associated colorectal cancer. 4) Selenium supplementation showed promising results in preliminary clinical studies, particularly in patients with selenium deficiency. While selenium supplementation seems to be beneficial for IBD, clinical studies have remained too preliminary in this regard. Randomized clinical trials are needed to measure the short-term and long-term effects of selenium on both active and quiescent IBD, particularly in patients with IBD who have documented selenium deficiency.

Keywords: Cancer; Gut microbiota; Inflammation; Inflammatory bowel disease; Selenium; Selenoprotein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colitis*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases* / drug therapy
  • Selenium*


  • Selenium