The chances of developing type 2 diabetes were as much as 24% lower among people with a diet rich in selenium than among those who consumed little of the mineral in a large new US study and reported by Reuters.
The findings, published in the journal Diabetes Care, are based on 7,000 male and female healthcare professionals followed for decades. But they add to a mixed bag of evidence on the protective effects of selenium, a known antioxidant, when it comes to diabetes.
Antioxidants are thought to offer some protection against chronic diseases, including diabetes, and selenium has become a popular supplement in recent years for that reason. The mineral is also found naturally in foods like bread, meat and nuts. In some places, it occurs in high concentrations in soil, affecting the direct exposure of people who live nearby and the selenium content of foods grown in the region.
A little over 7,000 women and men participating in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. None had diabetes or heart disease at the beginning of the study. And just over 10 percent developed Type 2 diabetes in subsequent years (a rate that is likely to be lower than in the general population, according to the researchers, since the study participants were all health professionals).
People should be choosing healthy foods like whole grains and fish, which are rich in the mineral. The Institute of Medicine, an advisory panel to the US government, recommends most adults get 55 micrograms of selenium each day. One bagel contains about 27 micrograms, for example, and one egg 15 micrograms.
It’s possible that high selenium levels in the study participants was a sign of other lifestyle factors that could partly explain their lower diabetes risk.
Participants with higher levels of selenium also ate more whole grains and consumed less saturated fat, coffee and alcohol and were less likely to be smokers than those with lower levels of the mineral.