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Selenium Sufficiency

Albion Minerals®

Selenium is a trace mineral that is essential to good health, but required only in small amounts. According to National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, plant foods are the major dietary sources of selenium in most countries throughout the world. The content of selenium in food depends on the selenium content of the soil where plants are grown or animals are raised. For example, researchers know that soils in the high plains of northern Nebraska and the Dakotas have very high levels of selenium, and people living in those regions generally have the highest selenium intakes in the U.S. 

Food distribution patterns across the U. S. help prevent people living in lowselenium geographic areas from having low dietary selenium intakes. Meanwhile, soils in some parts of China and Russia have very low amounts of selenium, and selenium deficiency is often reported in those regions because most food in those areas is grown and eaten locally. And according to Kevin Harden, vice president of sales at Georgia-based Private Label Nutraceuticals, selenium deficiency can lead to a host of problems, including Keshan disease or Kashin-Beck disease. Selenium deficiency can also be linked to gastrointestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease, and lower selenium levels can affect those with an iodine deficiency, as both negatively impact thyroid function, he said. Additionally, according to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration, epidemiological data suggests an association between low selenium levels in humans and the risk of cardiomyopathy, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Selenium levels have been noted to be lower in HIV-positive patients with cardiomyopathy, and selenium has been studied as a potential treatment for HIV.

Being Selenium Sufficient 

There are a number of areas in which selenium can make a positive contribution toward human health. Selenium may help protect cells from free radical damage, as well as offer immune system support. It may also regulate thyroid function, Harden said.

Several recent clinical trials have shown that supplementing with up to 200 mcg of selenium may reduce the risk of certain cancers, offered Harden. Studies show that this dosage has been shown to reduce breast cancer by 82 percent, colon and rectal cancer by 69 percent and lung cancer by 39 percent. “Selenium is thought to stop carcinogenic processes and prevent the formation of tumors. It has antioxidant properties, and promotes endocrine balance, which may also explain the cancer prevention properties of this trace mineral,” he said.

As such, because supplementation is becoming increasingly popular as a method of preventative care, consumers are beginning to research illnesses and symptoms and finding appropriate solutions through vitamins and minerals, said Harden. “[Now that] more information is becoming available to consumers regarding the effects of specific vitamins and minerals, end users are becoming more aware of what products would be best suited for their lifestyle.” 

As a contract manufacturer, Private Label Nutraceuticals can develop a multitude of selenium formulas that meet the needs of each individual distributor’s market and end consumer, Harden said. “However, we provide several stock multivitamin formulations containing selenium. Our complete private labeling services allow our clients to develop a custom or stock formula with their own brand, effectively letting the distributor create highly targeted brands to increase the profitability of the product.” 

Moreover, eXselen from Iowabased Embria Health Sciences is a superior-quality, all natural, organic selenium that delivers on the promise of maximum bioavailability, said Larry Robinson, the company’s vice president of scientific affairs. The yeast fermentation process used in the manufacture of eXselen produces very high levels of selenomethionine—the most optimal form of organic selenium for bioavailability and quality. EXselen delivers 2,000-2,300 mcg/g of selenium and less than two percent inorganic selenium. “To our knowledge, eXselen has the lowest residual levels of inorganic selenium. Independent research has shown that eXselen is superior in its ability to be stored in muscle tissue as compared to competitive selenium yeasts. Our more than 65 years in the production of high-quality yeast products guarantees that eXselen is unsurpassed in quality and efficacy.” 

However, Gene Bruno, MS, MHS, the Dean of Academics for Huntington College of Health Sciences, offered that, selenium is essential in small amounts as a trace mineral, but toxic at high levels. As selenocysteine, selenium is incorporated into a number of selenoproteins (selenium-dependent antioxidant enzymes).1 It is these selenoproteins that are responsible for selenium’s biological functions. These selenoproteins protect against free radicals and other damaging reactive oxygen species, help regulate cell growth and viability, help produce biologically active thyroid hormones, support muscle metabolism, support protein production, support sperm formation, and may be involved in inflammatory and immune responses.2 


In March, the broadcast news magazine “Dateline NBC” aired an exposé on dietary supplement safety, labeling, formulation and testing, focusing on a case involving consumers who fell seriously ill after taking a product with mislabeled and dangerously high levels of selenium. The show also created a fake company and two fake, adulterated products, which they sent to industry labs to see whether the labs conducted appropriate tests and found the obvious adulterants or if they “dry labbed” the tests and produced clean results without actually conducting the tests.

The product, Total Body Formula, was recalled in 2008 after FDA (Federal Drug Administration) lab test results showed high selenium (40,800 mcg, more than 200 times label claim) and chromium (3,426 mcg,17 times more than recommended intake) levels. Dateline investigated how a grossly high and unsafe level of an ingredient could make it all the way through the entire chain of production to the retailer and consumer. In the show’s interview with Frank Jaksch, co-founder of California-based Chromadex, he said one of the problems is dry labbing, when a sample comes into a lab for testing, but is cast aside without testing, and results are made to match or closely adhere to what the customer wants or what is on their supplied certificate of analysis (CoA). The FDA responded that they are taking the Dateline information seriously and will act appropriately.

Dry labbing affects all supplement categories negatively, said Harden. “However, as selenium is only safe consumed in small amounts, it is extremely crucial to ensure that you have a highquality, safe and accurate product when developing any selenium formula. Although recent reports have brought a negative light onto supplement manufacturers in regard to product quality and authenticity, this is certainly not the norm within the industry. Many supplement manufacturers consider consumer safety a top priority, and have set certain quality control measures in place to ensure products are safe for consumption by the end user. GMP-certified manufacturers, such as Private Label Nutraceuticals, follow guidelines and procedures put in place to guarantee consistent, top-quality products, as well as compliant labeling that contains full product disclosure.”


1 Rayman MP. The importance of selenium to human health. Lancet. 2000;356(9225):233-241.

2 Higdon J, Drake VJ. Selenium. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. Oregon State University. Last updated 1/22/09. Retrieved September 13, 2012 from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/ selenium/.


Embria Health Sciences, (877) 362-7421  

Private Label Nutraceuticals, (678) 328-3700

Albion Minerals®