Can selenium prevent heart diseases?

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Selenium being an antioxidant, its action in preventing heart disease is being investigated.

Most of the incidences of heart diseases are associated with lower intake of antioxidants.
Selenium is an essential component of the selenoproteins forming antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase (GPX).
During the process of metabolism in our body, free radicals are formed as by-products which have devastating effects on the body tissues, oxidizing the LDL (low density lipoproteins) and leading to plaque formation on the walls of the blood vessels.
The antioxidants reduce the free radicals and protect the tissues from their damage.
Well documented evidence is available on the preventive effects of vitamin E and vitamin C on the cardiac problems.
In the case of selenium conflicting results have been obtained towards its use for prevention of cardiac problems.

Selenium deficiency causes Keshan disease

It is well known that chronic deficiency of Selenium in diet can lead to Keshan disease, a potentially fatal form of congestive cardiomyopathy.
This condition is characterized by cardiac enlargement leading to pulmonary edema and cardiac failure.
There is a great possibility of the sub clinical form of this existing in larger population whose diet is insufficient in Se.
This section of the population which may have minor cardiac ailments is bound to benefit a lot if their low blood selenium levels are checked and proper supplementation is given.

Usefulness of selenium in heart diseases

In a meta-analysis performed on studies conducted from 1966 to 2005 it was found that the risk of cardiovascular ailments was inversely linked to the mineral concentration in the blood.
One of the risk factor for coronary problems is high plasma levels of homo-cysteine.
In a study conducted by University of Oveido Selenium has been found to reduce the homocysteine levels in blood.
Ongoing research has to prove conclusively that low blood levels of selenium increase the risk of cardiac problems.
Some investigations found that selenium does not give protection against cardiac problems.
State University of New York Analyzed the results of the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer Trial (NPC Trial) conducted in 90s.
It was found that in participants taking  supplement at 200 mcg/per day for 7½ years the incidence rate of death, stroke and heart attack had not changed and that the mineral did not prevent cardiac ailments.

Selenium supplements may increase the risk of heart problems?

In a study conducted by researchers from University of Warwick, the link between the levels of Selenium and lipids in the blood was investigated.
The study was conducted on more than 1000 participants in the age group 19-64 years.
It was found that total cholesterol levels increased by 8% with a increase of 10% in LDL cholesterol in participants having more than 1.20 mol/L of the mineral in their blood.
The study concluded that taking Se supplements without requirement may boost the cholesterol levels leading to increase in risk of cardiac problems.
Further research is required for conclusively arriving at the benefit, if any, of selenium supplements for preventing heart problems.
Related topics on selenium health benefits:
Health benefits
Antioxidant functions.
For prostate cancer.
Selenium overdose and side effects
Thyroid hormones.
SELECT for cancer prevention.
Treatment of Keshan disease.
Supplements and dosage.
Selenium for heart disease (current topic).

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